Phages infecting Faecalibacterium prausnitzii belong to novel viral genera that help to decipher intestinal viromes

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Viral metagenomic studies have suggested a role for bacteriophages in intestinal dysbiosis associated with several human diseases. However, interpretation of viral metagenomic studies is limited by the lack of knowledge of phages infecting major human gut commensal bacteria, such as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, a bacterial symbiont repeatedly found depleted in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients. In particular, no complete genomes of phages infecting F. prausnitzii are present in viral databases. METHODS: We identified 18 prophages in 15 genomes of F. prausnitzii, used comparative genomics to define eight phage clades, and annotated the genome of the type phage of each clade. For two of the phages, we studied prophage induction in vitro and in vivo in mice. Finally, we aligned reads from already published viral metagenomic data onto the newly identified phages. RESULTS: We show that each phage clade represents a novel viral genus and that a surprisingly large fraction of them (10 of the 18 phages) codes for a diversity-generating retroelement, which could contribute to their adaptation to the digestive tract environment. We obtained either experimental or in silico evidence of activity for at least one member of each genus. In addition, four of these phages are either significantly more prevalent or more abundant in stools of IBD patients than in those of healthy controls. CONCLUSION: Since IBD patients generally have less F. prausnitzii in their microbiota than healthy controls, the higher prevalence or abundance of some of its phages may indicate that they are activated during disease. This in turn suggests that phages could trigger or aggravate F. prausnitzii depletion in patients. Our results show that prophage detection in sequenced strains of the microbiota can usefully complement viral metagenomic studies.

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Cornuault, J. K., Petit, M. A., Mariadassou, M., Benevides, L., Moncaut, E., Langella, P., … De Paepe, M. (2018). Phages infecting Faecalibacterium prausnitzii belong to novel viral genera that help to decipher intestinal viromes. Microbiome, 6(1), 65. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40168-018-0452-1

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