Diversity of human-associated bifidobacterial prophage sequences

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Buckley, Darren
Odamaki, Toshitaka
Xiao, Jin-zhong
Mahony, Jennifer
van Sinderen, Douwe
Bottacini, Francesca
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Members of Bifidobacterium play an important role in the development of the immature gut and are associated with positive long-term health outcomes for their human host. It has previously been shown that intestinal bacteriophages are detected within hours of birth, and that induced prophages constitute a significant source of such gut phages. The gut phageome can be vertically transmitted from mother to newborn and is believed to exert considerable selective pressure on target prokaryotic hosts affecting abundance levels, microbiota composition, and host characteristics. The objective of the current study was to investigate prophage-like elements and predicted CRISPR-Cas viral immune systems present in publicly available, human-associated Bifidobacterium genomes. Analysis of 585 fully sequenced bifidobacterial genomes identified 480 prophage-like elements with an occurrence of 0.82 prophages per genome. Interestingly, we also detected the presence of very similar bifidobacterial prophages and corresponding CRISPR spacers across different strains and species, thus providing an initial exploration of the human-associated bifidobacterial phageome. Our analyses show that closely related and likely functional prophages are commonly present across four different species of human-associated Bifidobacterium. Further comparative analysis of the CRISPR-Cas spacer arrays against the predicted prophages provided evidence of historical interactions between prophages and different strains at an intra- and inter-species level. Clear evidence of CRISPR-Cas acquired immunity against infection by bifidobacterial prophages across several bifidobacterial strains and species was obtained. Notably, a spacer representing a putative major capsid head protein was found on different genomes representing multiple strains across B. adolescentis, B. breve, and B. bifidum, suggesting that this gene is a preferred target to provide bifidobacterial phage immunity.
Gut microbiota , Bifidobacterium , Phageome , Bifidobacteria , Prophage , CRISPR-Cas
Buckley, D., Odamaki, T., Xiao, J., Mahony, J., Van Sinderen, D. and Bottacini, F. (2021) ‘Diversity of human-associated bifidobacterial prophage sequences’, Microorganisms, 9(12), 2559 (16pp). doi: 10.3390/microorganisms9122559