Chronic Release of Tailless Phage Particles from Lactococcus lactis

Yue Liu, Svetlana Alexeeva, Herwig Bachmann, Jesús Adrián Guerra Martínez, Nataliya Yeremenko, Tjakko Abee, Eddy J. Smida

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Lactococcus lactis strains residing in the microbial community of a complex dairy starter culture named "Ur"are hosts to prophages belonging to the family Siphoviridae. L. lactis strains (TIFN1 to TIFN7) showed detectable spontaneous phage production and release (109 to 1010 phage particles/ml) and up to 10-fold increases upon prophage induction, while in both cases we observed no obvious cell lysis typically described for the lytic life cycle of Siphoviridae phages. Intrigued by this phenomenon, we investigated the host-phage interaction using strain TIFN1 (harboring prophage proPhi1) as a representative. We confirmed that during the massive phage release, all bacterial cells remain viable. Further, by monitoring phage replication in vivo, using a green fluorescence protein reporter combined with flow cytometry, we demonstrated that the majority of the bacterial population (over 80%) is actively producing phage particles when induced with mitomycin C. The released tailless phage particles were found to be engulfed in lipid membranes, as evidenced by electron microscopy and lipid staining combined with chemical lipid analysis. Based on the collective observations, we propose a model of phage-host interaction in L. lactis TIFN1 where the phage particles are engulfed in membranes upon release, thereby leaving the producing host intact. Moreover, we discuss possible mechanisms of chronic, or nonlytic, release of LAB Siphoviridae phages and its impact on the bacterial host.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01483-21
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • Dairy starter culture
  • Lipid bilayer
  • Membranes
  • Nonlytic phage release
  • Siphoviridae

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