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Life in the lab changes bacteria

Genome sequencing reveals differences between wild and domesticated strains

Oeiras, 04.03.2013

The bacterium Bacillus subtilis is a model organism as well as a workhorse in industrial applications. Its genome was the second of a free-living organism to be sequenced, in 1997, following that of Haemophilus influenza. But the genome of the laboratory strain lacks many genes present in the wild strain isolated from poultry, something that became apparent after researchers from the Microbial Developmental group of the ITQB, in partnership with the Computational Genomics group of the IGC, and the company DSM Nutritional Products, obtained the first genome sequence of a gut strain of B. subtilis. The new sequence, now deposited in GenBank, is presented in the first issue of the journal Genome Announcements.

Long viewed as a soil-dwelling bacterium, recent studies established that this widely used organism has a bi-phasic life-cycle, alternating between the soil and the gut of various animals. For instance, it has been shown that B. subtilis undergoes multiple cycles of growth and sporulation in the gut. However, the genetic determinants involved in host colonization have been unknown. By analyzing the genome of a gut strain B. subtilis, researchers identified many genes thought to be advantageous in the gut, which are absent from the "domesticated" strains used in laboratories around the world. Among those, are genes involved in robust biofilm formation, utilization of complex sugars, or collagen-binding adhesins.

B. subtilis has been studied in the laboratory for well over a century. During this time, manipulations in the laboratory have affected the bacterial genome, generation after generation. The sequencing of a wild strain of B. subtilis and its comparison with the genome of laboratory strains provides also important insights into the process of bacterial domestication.

The ability of B. subtilis, and related organisms to differentiate highly resistant endospores, has spurred a number of applications in biotechnology and biomedicine. Among those applications, is the inclusion of spores in highly successful commercial formulations of probiotics. The genome of the gut strain represents an important platform for further development of B. subtilis as a tool in biotechnology/biomedicine.


Original Article

Genome Announc. (2013) vol. 1 no. 1 e00184-12

Genome of a Gut Strain of Bacillus subtilis

Ghislain Schynsa, Cláudia R. Serrab, Thomas Lapointea, José B. Pereira-Lealc, Sébastien Potota, Patrick Fickersd, John B. Perkinsa, Markus Wyssa, Adriano O. Henriquesb

a- Research and Development, DSM Nutritional Products Ltd., Kaiseraugst, Switzerland
b - Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Oeiras, Portugal

c - Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Oeiras, Portugal
d - Biotechnology and Bioprocess, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium


Genome Announcements is a new online-only, fully open access journal that publishes short manuscripts announcing the availability of recently sequenced genomes of prokaryotic and eukaryotic microbes and viruses in public databases. These announcements inform readers of the availability of new genome sequences and provide the rationale for sequencing a particular organism, as well as details of the methodologies and protocols used in assembly of the genome sequence. Manuscripts submitted to Genome Announcements will be editorially reviewed for appropriate content; submissions will be accepted and published at the editor's discretion.


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