François P. Douillard 1 , * , Angela Ribbera 1 , 2 , Ravi Kant 1 , Taija E. Pietilä 1 , Hanna M. Järvinen 3 , Marcel Messing 3 , Cinzia L. Randazzo 4 , Lars Paulin 5 , Pia Laine 5 , Jarmo Ritari 1 , Cinzia Caggia 4 , Tanja Lähteinen 1 , Stan J. J. Brouns 2 , Reetta Satokari 1 , 6 , Ingemar von Ossowski 1 , Justus Reunanen 1 , Airi Palva 1 , Willem M. de Vos 1 , 2 , 3 , *
15 August 2013
Lactobacillus rhamnosus is a lactic acid bacterium that is found in a large variety of ecological habitats, including artisanal and industrial dairy products, the oral cavity, intestinal tract or vagina. To gain insights into the genetic complexity and ecological versatility of the species L. rhamnosus, we examined the genomes and phenotypes of 100 L. rhamnosus strains isolated from diverse sources. The genomes of 100 L. rhamnosus strains were mapped onto the L. rhamnosus GG reference genome. These strains were phenotypically characterized for a wide range of metabolic, antagonistic, signalling and functional properties. Phylogenomic analysis showed multiple groupings of the species that could partly be associated with their ecological niches. We identified 17 highly variable regions that encode functions related to lifestyle, i.e. carbohydrate transport and metabolism, production of mucus-binding pili, bile salt resistance, prophages and CRISPR adaptive immunity. Integration of the phenotypic and genomic data revealed that some L. rhamnosus strains possibly resided in multiple niches, illustrating the dynamics of bacterial habitats. The present study showed two distinctive geno-phenotypes in the L. rhamnosus species. The geno-phenotype A suggests an adaptation to stable nutrient-rich niches, i.e. milk-derivative products, reflected by the alteration or loss of biological functions associated with antimicrobial activity spectrum, stress resistance, adaptability and fitness to a distinctive range of habitats. In contrast, the geno-phenotype B displays adequate traits to a variable environment, such as the intestinal tract, in terms of nutrient resources, bacterial population density and host effects.
Some bacterial species are specialists and adapted to a single niche, while others are generalists and able to grow in various environmental conditions. Lactobacillus rhamnosus is a generalist and its members can often be found in different human cavities but also in various artisanal and industrial dairy products. To gain insights into the genetic complexity and ecological versatility of this species, we collected 100 L. rhamnosus strains from different niches. Genomic and functional analysis of these revealed a dichotomy within the species that reflected its adaptation to particular niches. The variable regions identified in the L. rhamnosus genome encode lifestyle traits that allowed us to demonstrate that some L. rhamnosus isolates possibly resided in multiple habitats. Our work brings valuable data on the ecological dynamics and adaptability of the species and provides a basis for a model explaining the ecology of L. rhamnosus in an anthropocentric perspective. Finally, we observed that a set of pheno-genomic markers, i.e. CRISPR oligotyping or carbohydrate metabolism, would be sufficient and among the best ways to differentiate the L. rhamnosus strains, providing a general approach to select the highest diversity in these and other bacterial species.