Phage Biodiversity in Artisanal Cheese Wheys Reflects the Complexity of the Fermentation Process.
ABSTRACT: Dairy fermentations constitute a perfect "breeding ground" for bacteriophages infecting starter cultures, particularly strains of Lactococcus lactis. In modern fermentations, these phages typically belong to one of three groups, i.e., the 936, P335, and c2 phage groups. Traditional production methods present fewer chemical and physical barriers to phage proliferation compared to modern production systems, while the starter cultures used are typically complex, variable, and undefined. In the current study, a variety of cheese whey, animal-derived rennet, and vat swab samples from artisanal cheeses produced in Sicily were analysed for the presence of lactococcal phages to assess phage diversity in such environments. The complete genomes of 18 representative phage isolates were sequenced, allowing the identification of 10 lactococcal 949 group phages, six P087 group phages, and two members of the 936 group phages. The genetic diversity of these isolates was examined using phylogenetic analysis as well as a focused analysis of the receptor binding proteins, which dictate specific interactions with the host-encoded receptor. Thermal treatments at 63 °C and 83 °C indicate that the 949 phages are particularly sensitive to thermal treatments, followed by the P087 and 936 isolates, which were shown to be much less sensitive to such treatments. This difference may explain the relatively low frequency of isolation of the so-called "rare" 949 and P087 group phages in modern fermentations.
Project description:Lactococcus lactis is one of the most important bacteria in dairy fermentations, being used in the production of cheese and buttermilk. The processes are vulnerable to phage attacks, and undefined mixtures of lactococcal strains are often used to reduce the risk of bacteriophage caused fermentation failure. Other preventive measures include culture rotation to prevent phage build-up and phage monitoring. Phage diversity, rather than quantity, is the largest threat to fermentations using undefined mixed starter cultures. We have developed a method for culture independent diversity analysis of lytic bacteriophages of the 936 group, the phages most commonly found in dairies. Using, as a target, a highly variable region of the portal protein gene, we demonstrate an unprecedented diversity and the presence of new 936 phages in samples taken from cheese production. The method should be useful to the dairy industry and starter culture manufacturers in their efforts to reduce phage problems.
Project description:Lactococci isolated from non-dairy sources have been found to possess enhanced metabolic activity when compared to dairy strains. These capabilities may be harnessed through the use of these strains as starter or adjunct cultures to produce more diverse flavor profiles in cheese and other dairy products. To understand the interactions between these organisms and the phages that infect them, a number of phages were isolated against lactococcal strains of non-dairy origin. One such phage, ?L47, was isolated from a sewage sample using the grass isolate L. lactis ssp. cremoris DPC6860 as a host. Visualization of phage virions by transmission electron microscopy established that this phage belongs to the family Siphoviridae and possesses a long tail fiber, previously unseen in dairy lactococcal phages. Determination of the lytic spectrum revealed a broader than expected host range, with ?L47 capable of infecting 4 industrial dairy strains, including ML8, HP and 310, and 3 additional non-dairy isolates. Whole genome sequencing of ?L47 revealed a dsDNA genome of 128, 546 bp, making it the largest sequenced lactococcal phage to date. In total, 190 open reading frames (ORFs) were identified, and comparative analysis revealed that the predicted products of 117 of these ORFs shared greater than 50% amino acid identity with those of L. lactis phage ?949, a phage isolated from cheese whey. Despite their different ecological niches, the genomic content and organization of ?L47 and ?949 are quite similar, with both containing 4 gene clusters oriented in different transcriptional directions. Other features that distinguish ?L47 from ?949 and other lactococcal phages, in addition to the presence of the tail fiber and the genome length, include a low GC content (32.5%) and a high number of predicted tRNA genes (8). Comparative genome analysis supports the conclusion that ?L47 is a new member of the 949 lactococcal phage group which currently includes the dairy ?949.
Project description:Genome sequencing and comparative analysis of bacteriophage collections has greatly enhanced our understanding regarding their prevalence, phage-host interactions as well as the overall biodiversity of their genomes. This knowledge is very relevant to phages infecting Lactococcus lactis, since they constitute a significant risk factor for dairy fermentations. Of the eighty four lactococcal phage genomes currently available, fifty five belong to the so-called 936 group, the most prevalent of the ten currently recognized lactococcal phage groups. Here, we report the genetic characteristics of a new collection of 936 group phages. By combining these genomes to those sequenced previously we determined the core and variable elements of the 936 genome. Genomic variation occurs across the 936 phage genome, such as genetic elements that (i) lead to a +1 translational frameshift resulting in the formation of additional structures on the phage tail, (ii) specify a double neck passage structure, and (iii) encode packaging module-associated methylases. Hierarchical clustering of the gene complement of the 936 group phages and nucleotide alignments allowed grouping of the ninety 936 group phages into distinct clusters, which in general appear to correspond with their geographical origin.
Project description:Lactococcal dairy starter strains are under constant threat from phages in dairy fermentation facilities, especially by members of the so-called 936, P335, and c2 species. Among these three phage groups, members of the P335 species are the most genetically diverse. Here, we present the complete genome sequences of two P335-type phages, Q33 and BM13, isolated in North America and representing a novel lineage within this phage group. The Q33 and BM13 genomes exhibit homology, not only to P335-type, but also to elements of the 936-type phage sequences. The two phage genomes also have close relatedness to phages infecting Enterococcus and Clostridium, a heretofore unknown feature among lactococcal P335 phages. The Q33 and BM13 genomes are organized in functionally related clusters with genes encoding functions such as DNA replication and packaging, morphogenesis, and host cell lysis. Electron micrographic analysis of the two phages highlights the presence of a baseplate more reminiscent of the baseplate of 936 phages than that of the majority of members of the P335 group, with the exception of r1t and LC3.
Project description:Lactococcus lactis is a Gram-positive bacterium widely used as a starter culture for the production of different dairy products, especially a large variety of cheeses. Infection of lactococcal starter cultures by bacteriophages is one of the major causes of fermentation failure and often leads to production halt. Lactococcal bacteriophages belonging to the c2, 936, and P335 species are the most commonly isolated in dairy plants and have been extensively investigated in the past three decades. Information regarding bacteriophages belonging to less commonly isolated species is, on the other hand, less extensive, although these phages can also contribute to starter culture infection. Here, we report the nucleotide sequence of the newly isolated L. lactis phage CHPC971, belonging to the rare 1706 species of lactococcal phages. We investigated the nature of the host receptor recognized by the phage and collected evidence that strongly suggests that it binds to a specific sugar moiety in the cell wall pellicle of its host. An in silico analysis of the genome of phage CHPC971 identified the hypothetical genes involved in receptor binding.IMPORTANCE Gathering information on how lactococcal bacteriophages recognize their host and proliferate in the dairy environment is of vital importance for the establishment of proper starter culture rotation plans and to avoid fermentation failure and consequent great economic losses for dairy industries. We provide strong evidence on the type of receptor recognized by a newly isolated 1706-type lactococcal bacteriophage, increasing knowledge of phage-host interactions relevant to dairying. This information can help to prevent phage infection events that, so far, are hard to predict and avoid.
Project description:To reduce high-salt waste from cucumber fermentations, low-salt fermentations are under development. These fermentations may require the use of starter cultures to ensure normal fermentations. Because potential phage infection can cause starter culture failure, it is important to understand phage ecology in the fermentations. This study investigated the phage ecology in a commercial cucumber fermentation. Brine samples taken from a fermentation tank over a 90-day period were plated onto deMan-Rogosa-Sharpe agar plates. A total of 576 lactic acid bacterial isolates were randomly selected to serve as potential hosts for phage isolation. Filtered brine served as a phage source. Fifty-seven independent phage isolates were obtained, indicating that 10% of the bacterial isolates were sensitive to phage attack. Phage hosts include Lactobacillus brevis (67% of all hosts), Lactobacillus plantarum (21%), Weissella paramesenteroides, Weissella cibaria, and Pediococcus ethanolidurans. Nearly 50% of phages were isolated on day 14, and the majority of them attacked L. brevis. Some phages had a broad host range and were capable of infecting multiple hosts in two genera. Other phages were species specific or strain specific. About 30% of phage isolates produced turbid pinpoint plaques or only caused reduced cell growth on the bacterial lawns. Six phages with distinct host ranges were characterized. The data from this study showed that abundant and diverse phages were present in the commercial cucumber fermentation, which could cause significant mortality to the lactic acid bacteria population. Therefore, a phage control strategy may be needed in low-salt cucumber fermentations.
Project description:We have sequenced the double-stranded DNA genomes of six lactococcal phages (SL4, CB13, CB14, CB19, CB20, and GR7) from the 936 group that were isolated over a 9-year period from whey samples obtained from a Canadian cheese factory. These six phages infected the same two industrial Lactococcus lactis strains out of 30 tested. The CB14 and GR7 genomes were found to be 100% identical even though they were isolated 14 months apart, indicating that a phage can survive in a cheese plant for more than a year. The other four genomes were related but notably different. The length of the genomes varied from 28,144 to 32,182 bp, and they coded for 51 to 55 open reading frames. All five genomes possessed a 3' overhang cos site that was 11 nucleotides long. Several structural proteins were also identified by nano-high-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry, confirming bioinformatic analyses. Comparative analyses suggested that the most recently isolated phages (CB19 and CB20) were derived, in part, from older phage isolates (CB13 and CB14/GR7). The organization of the five distinct genomes was similar to the previously sequenced lactococcal phage genomes of the 936 group, and from these sequences, a core genome was determined for lactococcal phages of the 936 group.
Project description:Comparative genomics of 11 lactococcal 936-type phages combined with host range analysis allowed subgrouping of these phage genomes, particularly with respect to their encoded receptor binding proteins. The so-called pellicle or cell wall polysaccharide of Lactococcus lactis, which has been implicated as a host receptor of (certain) 936-type phages, is specified by a large gene cluster, which, among different lactococcal strains, contains highly conserved regions as well as regions of diversity. The regions of diversity within this cluster on the genomes of lactococcal strains MG1363, SK11, IL1403, KF147, CV56, and UC509.9 were used for the development of a multiplex PCR system to identify the pellicle genotype of lactococcal strains used in this study. The resulting comparative analysis revealed an apparent correlation between the pellicle genotype of a given host strain and the host range of tested 936-type phages. Such a correlation would allow prediction of the intrinsic 936-type phage sensitivity of a particular lactococcal strain and substantiates the notion that the lactococcal pellicle polysaccharide represents the receptor for (certain) 936-type phages while also partially explaining the molecular reasons behind the observed narrow host range of such phages.
Project description:Lactococcus lactis is the most widely exploited microorganism in global dairy fermentations. Lactococcal strains are described as typically harboring a number of prophages in their chromosomes. The presence of such prophages may provide both advantages and disadvantages to the carrying host. Here, we describe the deliberate generation of three distinct lysogens of the model lactococcal strain 3107 and the impact of additional prophage carriage on phage-resistance and anti-microbial susceptibility. Lysogen-specific responses were observed, highlighting the unique relationship and impact of each lysogenic phage on its host. Both homologous and heterologous phage-resistance profiles were observed, highlighting the presence of possible prophage-encoded phage-resistance factors. Superinfection exclusion was among the most notable causes of heterologous phage-resistance profiles with resistance observed against members of the Skunavirus, P335, P087, and 949 lactococcal phage groups. Through these analyses, it is now possible to identify phages that may pursue similar DNA injection pathways. The generated lysogenic strains exhibited increased sensitivity to the antimicrobial compounds, nisin and lysozyme, relative to the parent strain, although it is noteworthy that the degree of sensitivity was specific to the individual (pro)phages. Overall, the findings highlight the unique impact of each prophage on a given strain and the requirement for strain-level analysis when considering the implications of lysogeny.
Project description:Lactococcal bacteriophages represent one of the leading causes of dairy fermentation failure and product inconsistencies. A new member of the lactococcal 949 phage group, named WRP3, was isolated from cheese whey from a Sicilian factory in 2011. The genome sequence of this phage was determined, and it constitutes the largest lactococcal phage genome currently known, at 130,008 bp. Detailed bioinformatic analysis of the genomic region encoding the presumed initiator complex and baseplate of WRP3 has aided in the functional assignment of several open reading frames (ORFs), particularly that for the receptor binding protein required for host recognition. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the 949 phages target cell wall phospho-polysaccharides as their receptors, accounting for the specificity of the interactions of these phages with their lactococcal hosts. Such information may ultimately aid in the identification of strains/strain blends that do not present the necessary saccharidic target for infection by these problematic phages.