Genomes of Gardnerella strains reveal an abundance of prophages within the bladder microbiome

Kema Malki, Jason W. Shapiro, Travis K. Price, Evann E. Hilt, Krystal Thomas-White, Trina Sircar, Amy B. Rosenfeld, Gina Kuffel, Michael J. Zilliox, Alan J. Wolfe, Catherine Putonti

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30 Scopus citations


Bacterial surveys of the vaginal and bladder human microbiota have revealed an abundance of many similar bacterial taxa. As the bladder was once thought to be sterile, the complex interactions between microbes within the bladder have yet to be characterized. To initiate this process, we have begun sequencing isolates, including the clinically relevant genus Gardnerella. Herein, we present the genomic sequences of four Gardnerella strains isolated from the bladders of women with symptoms of urgency urinary incontinence; these are the first Gardnerella genomes produced from this niche. Congruent to genomic characterization of Gardnerella isolates from the reproductive tract, isolates from the bladder reveal a large pangenome, as well as evidence of high frequency horizontal gene transfer. Prophage gene sequences were found to be abundant amongst the strains isolated from the bladder, as well as amongst publicly available Gardnerella genomes from the vagina and endometrium, motivating an in depth examination of these sequences. Amongst the 39 Gardnerella strains examined here, there were more than 400 annotated prophage gene sequences that we could cluster into 95 homologous groups; 49 of these groups were unique to a single strain. While many of these prophages exhibited no sequence similarity to any lytic phage genome, estimation of the rate of phage acquisition suggests both vertical and horizontal acquisition. Furthermore, bioinformatic evidence indicates that prophage acquisition is ongoing within both vaginal and bladder Gardnerella populations. The abundance of prophage sequences within the strains examined here suggests that phages could play an important role in the species' evolutionary history and in its interactions within the complex communities found in the female urinary and reproductive tracts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0166757
JournalPloS one
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Malki et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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