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Comparative genome analysis of Streptococcus infantarius subsp. infantarius CJ18, an African fermented camel milk isolate with adaptations to dairy environment

Christoph Jans, Rainer Follador, Mira Hochstrasser, Christophe Lacroix, Leo Meile* and Marc J A Stevens

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Laboratory of Food Biotechnology, Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health, Schmelzbergstrasse 7, ETH Zurich, Zurich, CH, 8092, Switzerland

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BMC Genomics 2013, 14:200  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-200

Published: 22 March 2013



Streptococcus infantarius subsp. infantarius (Sii) belongs to the Streptococcus bovis/Streptococcus equinus complex associated with several human and animal infections. Sii is a predominant bacterium in spontaneously fermented milk products in Africa. The genome sequence of Sii strain CJ18 was compared with that of other Streptococcus species to identify dairy adaptations including genome decay such as in Streptococcus thermophilus, traits for its competitiveness in spontaneous milk fermentation and to assess potential health risks for consumers.


The genome of Sii CJ18 harbors several unique regions in comparison to Sii ATCC BAA-102T, among others an enlarged exo- and capsular polysaccharide operon; Streptococcus thermophilus-associated genes; a region containing metabolic and hypothetical genes mostly unique to CJ18 and the dairy isolate Streptococcus gallolyticus subsp. macedonicus; and a second oligopeptide transport operon. Dairy adaptations in CJ18 are reflected by a high percentage of pseudogenes (4.9%) representing genome decay which includes the inactivation of the lactose phosphotransferase system (lacIIABC) by multiple transposases integration. The presence of lacS and lacZ genes is the major dairy adaptation affecting lactose metabolism pathways also due to the disruption of lacIIABC.

We constructed mutant strains of lacS, lacZ and lacIIABC and analyzed the resulting strains of CJ18 to confirm the redirection of lactose metabolism via LacS and LacZ.

Natural competence genes are conserved in both Sii strains, but CJ18 contains a lower number of CRISPR spacers which indicates a reduced defense capability against alien DNA. No classical streptococcal virulence factors were detected in both Sii strains apart from those involved in adhesion which should be considered niche factors. Sii-specific virulence factors are not described. Several Sii-specific regions encoding uncharacterized proteins provide new leads for virulence analyses and investigation of the unclear association of dairy and clinical Sii with human diseases.


The genome of the African dairy isolate Sii CJ18 clearly differs from the human isolate ATCC BAA-102T. CJ18 possesses a high natural competence predisposition likely explaining the enlarged genome. Metabolic adaptations to the dairy environment are evident and especially lactose uptake corresponds to S. thermophilus. Genome decay is not as advanced as in S. thermophilus (10-19%) possibly due to a shorter history in dairy fermentations.

Streptococcus infantarius; Streptococcus bovis/Streptococcus equinus complex; Streptococcus thermophilus; Streptococcus gallolyticus subsp. macedonicus; Dairy fermentation; Lactose metabolism; Africa; Camel; Health risk; Streptococcus virulence factors