Lactococcus lactis metabolism and gene expression during growth on plant tissues

J Bacteriol. 2015 Jan;197(2):371-81. doi: 10.1128/JB.02193-14. Epub 2014 Nov 10.


Lactic acid bacteria have been isolated from living, harvested, and fermented plant materials; however, the adaptations these bacteria possess for growth on plant tissues are largely unknown. In this study, we investigated plant habitat-specific traits of Lactococcus lactis during growth in an Arabidopsis thaliana leaf tissue lysate (ATL). L. lactis KF147, a strain originally isolated from plants, exhibited a higher growth rate and reached 7.9-fold-greater cell densities during growth in ATL than the dairy-associated strain L. lactis IL1403. Transcriptome profiling (RNA-seq) of KF147 identified 853 induced and 264 repressed genes during growth in ATL compared to that in GM17 laboratory culture medium. Genes induced in ATL included those involved in the arginine deiminase pathway and a total of 140 carbohydrate transport and metabolism genes, many of which are involved in xylose, arabinose, cellobiose, and hemicellulose metabolism. The induction of those genes corresponded with L. lactis KF147 nutrient consumption and production of metabolic end products in ATL as measured by gas chromatography-time of flight mass spectrometry (GC-TOF/MS) untargeted metabolomic profiling. To assess the importance of specific plant-inducible genes for L. lactis growth in ATL, xylose metabolism was targeted for gene knockout mutagenesis. Wild-type L. lactis strain KF147 but not an xylA deletion mutant was able to grow using xylose as the sole carbon source. However, both strains grew to similarly high levels in ATL, indicating redundancy in L. lactis carbohydrate metabolism on plant tissues. These findings show that certain strains of L. lactis are well adapted for growth on plants and possess specific traits relevant for plant-based food, fuel, and feed fermentations.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Lactococcus lactis / genetics
  • Lactococcus lactis / metabolism*
  • Plants / microbiology*


  • Bacterial Proteins