Extensive horizontal gene transfer in cheese-associated bacteria

Elife. 2017 Jun 23:6:e22144. doi: 10.7554/eLife.22144.


Acquisition of genes through horizontal gene transfer (HGT) allows microbes to rapidly gain new capabilities and adapt to new or changing environments. Identifying widespread HGT regions within multispecies microbiomes can pinpoint the molecular mechanisms that play key roles in microbiome assembly. We sought to identify horizontally transferred genes within a model microbiome, the cheese rind. Comparing 31 newly sequenced and 134 previously sequenced bacterial isolates from cheese rinds, we identified over 200 putative horizontally transferred genomic regions containing 4733 protein coding genes. The largest of these regions are enriched for genes involved in siderophore acquisition, and are widely distributed in cheese rinds in both Europe and the US. These results suggest that HGT is prevalent in cheese rind microbiomes, and that identification of genes that are frequently transferred in a particular environment may provide insight into the selective forces shaping microbial communities.

Keywords: Cheese; Horizontal Gene Transfer; Microbial communities; Model systems for microbial communities; Siderophores; evolutionary biology; genomics; infectious disease; microbiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Cheese / microbiology*
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal*
  • Microbiota*