Cell wall glycans mediate recognition of the dairy bacterium Streptococcus thermophilus by bacteriophages

Paula Szymczak, Sérgio Raposo Filipe, Gonçalo Covas, Finn Kvist Vogensen, Ana Rute Neves, Thomas Janzen

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28 Citations (Scopus)


Receptors on the cell surfaces of bacterial hosts are essential during the infection cycle of bacteriophages. To date, the phage receptors of the industrial relevant dairy starter bacterium Streptococcus thermophilus remain elusive. Thus, we set out to identify cell surface structures that are involved in host recognition by dairy streptococcal phages. Five industrial S. thermophilus strains sensitive to different phages (pac type, cos type, and the new type 987), were selected to generate spontaneous bacteriophage-insensitive mutants (BIMs). Of these, approximately 50% were deselected as clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) mutants, while the other pool was further characterized to identify receptor mutants. On the basis of genome sequencing data, phage resistance in putative receptor mutants was attributed to nucleotide changes in genes encoding glycan biosynthetic pathways. Superresolution structured illumination microscopy was used to visualize the interactions between S. thermophilus and its phages. The phages were either regularly distributed along the cells or located at division sites of the cells. The cell wall structures mediating the latter type of phage adherence were further analyzed via phenotypic and biochemical assays. Altogether, our data suggested that phage adsorption to S. thermophilus is mediated by glycans associated with the bacterial cell surface. Specifically, the pac-type phage CHPC951 adsorbed to polysaccharides anchored to peptidoglycan, while the 987-type phage CHPC926 recognized exocellular polysaccharides associated with the cell surface.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01847-18
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • Adsorption
  • Bacteriophages
  • Cell wall
  • Glycans
  • Polysaccharides
  • Receptors
  • Streptococcus thermophilus


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