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Characterization of a novel lytic bacteriophage from an industrial Escherichia coli fermentation process and elimination of virulence using a heterologous CRISPR–Cas9 system

Halter, MathewC., Zahn, JamesA.
Journal of industrial microbiology & biotechnology 2018 v.45 no.3 pp. 153-163
Escherichia coli K12, Streptococcus thermophilus, assets, bacteria, bacteriophages, equipment, fermentation, fouling, genetic engineering, manufacturing, open reading frames, operon, plasmids, product quality, virulence, Germany
Bacterial–bacteriophage interactions are a well-studied and ecologically-important aspect of microbiology. Many commercial fermentation processes are susceptible to bacteriophage infections due to the use of high-density, clonal cell populations. Lytic infections of bacterial cells in these fermentations are especially problematic due to their negative impacts on product quality, asset utilization, and fouling of downstream equipment. Here, we report the isolation and characterization of a novel lytic bacteriophage, referred to as bacteriophage DTL that is capable of rapid lytic infections of an Escherichia coli K12 strain used for commercial production of 1,3-propanediol (PDO). The bacteriophage genome was sequenced and annotated, which identified 67 potential open-reading frames (ORF). The tail fiber ORF, the largest in the genome, was most closely related to bacteriophage RTP, a T1-like bacteriophage reported from a commercial E. coli fermentation process in Germany. To eliminate virulence, both a fully functional Streptococcus thermophilus CRISPR3 plasmid and a customized S. thermophilus CRISPR3 plasmid with disabled spacer acquisition elements and seven spacers targeting the bacteriophage DTL genome were constructed. Both plasmids were separately integrated into a PDO production strain, which was subsequently infected with bacteriophage DTL. The native S. thermophilus CRISPR3 operon was shown to decrease phage susceptibility by approximately 96%, while the customized CRISPR3 operon provided complete resistance to bacteriophage DTL. The results indicate that the heterologous bacteriophage-resistance system described herein is useful in eliminating lytic infections of bacteriophage DTL, which was prevalent in environment surrounding the manufacturing facility.