Caister Academic Press

A Genomic Perspective on Niche Adaptability in Lactobacillus

Ewelina Stefanovic and Olivia McAuliffe
from: Lactobacillus Genomics and Metabolic Engineering (Edited by: Sandra M. Ruzal). Caister Academic Press, U.K. (2019) Pages: 1-18.


The Lactobacillus genus comprises more than 200 formally-recognised species characterized by a phylogenetic and metabolic diversity that exceeds that of a typical bacterial family. The widespread dissemination of members of the lactobacilli in different ecological niches testifies to their extraordinary niche adaptability. Advances in sequencing technologies has facilitated a comprehensive examination of the characteristics of the Lactobacillus genus through large-scale comparative genomics, and aided an understanding of the genomic background for the presence of lactobacilli in such a broad range of habitats. Comparative genomic analysis has revealed that adaptation to such highly variable environments is a result of genome evolution. Gene loss and acquisition, mainly driven by horizontal gene transfer, underlies the remarkable genomic diversity observed, resulting in species which may be considered either niche generalists or niche specialists. Larger genome sizes are associated with ecologically flexible species such as Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus plantarum. These niche generalists have typically acquired or retained the capacity to migrate between different habitats and have recently been described as nomadic. Niche specialists, or host-adapted species such as Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis, possess much smaller genomes, reflecting ecological specialisation. For many species, sufficient information to infer their real niche preferences remains elusive. In this chapter, we review the available genomic information for the Lactobacillus genus and the comparative genomic approaches that have been taken to evaluate strains or species found in different niches, which give an insight into niche adaptation within the genus read more ...
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