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MBio. 2014 May 6;5(3):e00880-14. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00880-14.

Differences in lactococcal cell wall polysaccharide structure are major determining factors in bacteriophage sensitivity.


Analysis of the genetic locus encompassing a cell wall polysaccharide (CWPS) biosynthesis operon of eight strains of Lactococcus lactis, identified as belonging to the same CWPS type C genotype, revealed the presence of a variable region among the strains examined. The results allowed the identification of five subgroups of the C type named subtypes C1 to C5. This variable region contains genes encoding glycosyltransferases that display low or no sequence homology between the subgroups. In this study, we purified an acidic polysaccharide from the cell wall of L. lactis 3107 (subtype C2) and confirmed that it is structurally different from the previously established CWPS of subtype C1 L. lactis MG1363. The CWPS of L. lactis 3107 is composed of pentasaccharide repeating units linked by phosphodiester bonds with the structure 6-α-Glc-3-β-Galf-3-β-GlcNAc-2-β-Galf-6-α-GlcNAc-1-P. Combinations of genes from the variable region of subtype C2 were introduced into a mutant of subtype C1 L. lactis NZ9000 deficient in CWPS biosynthesis. The resulting recombinant mutant synthesized a polysaccharide with a composition characteristic of that of subtype C2 L. lactis 3107 and not wild-type C1 L. lactis NZ9000. By challenging the recombinant mutant with various lactococcal phages, we demonstrated that CWPS is the host cell surface receptor of tested bacteriophages of both the P335 and 936 groups and that differences between the CWPS structures play a crucial role in determining phage host range. IMPORTANCE Despite the efforts of nearly 80 years of lactococcal phage research, the precise nature of the cell surface receptors of the P335 and 936 phage group receptors has remained elusive. This work demonstrates the molecular nature of a P335 group receptor while bolstering the evidence of its role in host recognition by phages of the 936 group and at least partially explains why such phages have a very narrow host range. The information generated will be instrumental in understanding the molecular mechanisms of how phages recognize specific saccharidic receptors located on the surface of their bacterial host.

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