Research has shown that Lactobacillus reuteri is a species of bacterium that is naturally present in the intestines of a large host range, from humans to rodents and birds.
Now, researchers from the Institute of Food Research and The Genome Analysis Centre have sequenced its genome to further understand how these organisms evolved their symbiotic relationships with their hosts.
Key to understanding the role of bacteria in establishing and maintaining gut health is knowledge of how the very close relationship between the bacteria and their hosts has evolved to be mutually beneficial to both.
Previous work had shown that each host species has its own subpopulation of L. reuteri strains. These strains differ slightly, and are host specific, and the differences between them are driven by evolutionary pressures from the host.
In close collaboration with IFR scientists, TGAC sequenced and assembled the genome of a L. reuteri strain obtained from pig to a high quality draft standard and also provided a full annotation.
The annotation is needed to identify which genes carry out which functions in the sequence. Comparisons between different strains of L. reuteri, which have already been made available in the major international sequence databases, helped identify a set of genes unique to this particular strain.
The IFR and TGAC researchers are now hoping to use this information to elucidate exactly what it is that restricts certain L. reuteri strains to specific hosts.
L. reuteri confers certain health benefits, and has a role in modulating the immune system. A greater understanding of how L. reuteri host adaptation will help in efforts to exploit these health benefits, for example in the production of new probiotics.