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PLoS One. 2015 Aug 14;10(8):e0135658. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0135658. eCollection 2015.

Intraspecies Genomic Diversity and Long-Term Persistence of Bifidobacterium longum.

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Microbiology and Virology Department, Pirogov Russian National Research Medical University, Moscow, Russia.
Department of Natural Sciences, Medical Institute, North Caucasus State Academy for Humanities and Technologies, Cherkessk, Russia.


Members of genus Bifidobacterium are Gram-positive bacteria, representing a large part of the human infant microbiota and moderately common in adults. However, our knowledge about their diversity, intraspecific phylogeny and long-term persistence in humans is still limited. Bifidobacterium longum is generally considered to be the most common and prevalent species in the intestinal microbiota. In this work we studied whole genome sequences of 28 strains of B. longum, including 8 sequences described in this paper. Part of these strains were isolated from healthy children during a long observation period (up to 10 years between isolation from the same patient). The three known subspecies (longum, infantis and suis) could be clearly divided using sequence-based phylogenetic methods, gene content and the average nucleotide identity. The profiles of glycoside hydrolase genes reflected the different ecological specializations of these three subspecies. The high impact of horizontal gene transfer on genomic diversity was observed, which is possibly due to a large number of prophages and rapidly spreading plasmids. The pan-genome characteristics of the subspecies longum corresponded to the open pan-genome model. While the major part of the strain-specific genetic loci represented transposons and phage-derived regions, a large number of cell envelope synthesis genes were also observed within this category, representing high variability of cell surface molecules. We observed the cases of isolation of high genetically similar strains of B. longum from the same patients after long periods of time, however, we didn't succeed in the isolation of genetically identical bacteria: a fact, reflecting the high plasticity of microbiota in children.

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