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Assessing the functionality and genetic diversity of lactococcal prophages

Kelleher, Philip, Mahony, Jennifer, Schweinlin, Katharina, Neve, Horst, Franz, Charles M., van Sinderen, Douwe
International journal of food microbiology 2018 v.272 pp. 29-40
Lactococcus lactis, bacteriophages, fermentation, flow cytometry, genetic variation, genome, genomics, lactic acid bacteria, mitomycin, prediction, risk
Lactococcus lactis is a lactic acid bacterium that is intensively and globally exploited in commercial dairy food fermentations. Though the presence of prophages in lactococcal genomes is widely reported, only limited studies pertaining to the stability of prophages in lactococcal genomes have been performed. The current study reports on the complete genome exploration of thirty lactococcal strains for the presence of potentially intact prophages, so as to assess their genomic diversity and the associated risk or benefit of harbouring such prophages. Genomic predictions partnered with mitomycin C inductions and flow cytometric analysis of the induced cell lysates confirmed that only four strains consistently produced intact phage particles, thus indicating a relatively low risk associated with prophage induction in the fermentation setting. Our analysis revealed the widespread presence of putative phage-resistance systems encoded by lactococcal prophages, thus highlighting the potential benefits for host fitness. Many of the identified lactococcal prophages belong to the so-called P335 phage group, while a large group of phage remnants bear similarity to members of the 936 phage group. The P335 phage group was recently shown to encompass four distinct genetic lineages. Our study identified an additional lineage, thus expanding the diversity of this industrially significant phage group.