The complete genome sequence of the yogurt isolate Streptococcus thermophilus ACA-DC 2
© The Author(s). 2017
Received: 9 November 2016
Accepted: 4 January 2017
Published: 31 January 2017
Streptococcus thermophilus ACA-DC 2 is a newly sequenced strain isolated from traditional Greek yogurt. Among the 14 fully sequenced strains of S. thermophilus currently deposited in the NCBI database, the ACA-DC 2 strain has the smallest chromosome, containing 1,731,838 bp. The annotation of its genome revealed the presence of 1,850 genes, including 1,556 protein-coding genes, 70 RNA genes and 224 potential pseudogenes. A large number of pseudogenes were identified. This was also accompanied by the absence of pathogenic features suggesting evolution of strain ACA-DC 2 through genome decay processes, most probably due to adaptation to the milk ecosystem. Analysis revealed the existence of one complete lactose-galactose operon, several proteolytic enzymes, one exopolysaccharide cluster, stress response genes and four putative antimicrobial peptides. Interestingly, one CRISPR-cas system and one orphan CRISPR, both carrying only one spacer, were predicted indicating low activity or inactivation of the cas proteins. Nevertheless, four putative restriction-modification systems were determined that may compensate any deficiencies of the CRISPR-cas system. Furthermore, whole genome phylogeny indicated three distinct clades within S. thermophilus. Comparative analysis among selected strains representative for each clade, including strain ACA-DC 2, revealed a high degree of conservation at the genomic scale, but also strain specific regions. Unique genes and genomic islands of strain ACA-DC 2 contained a number of genes potentially acquired through horizontal gene transfer events, that could be related to important technological properties for dairy starters. Our study suggests genomic traits in strain ACA-DC 2 compatible to the production of dairy fermented foods.
KeywordsExtended genome report Streptococcus thermophilus Yogurt Horizontal gene transfer CRISPR Stress genes
The use of microorganisms in food fermentations is the means for converting perishable and frequently inedible raw materials into safe, shelf-stable and nutritionally upgraded foods . The economic importance of starter cultures for the food industry has led to the continuous search for the discovery of new microorganisms with important technological characteristics. In many cases it has been proven that traditionally fermented foods represent a natural reservoir of undiscovered microbial strains for possible diverse food applications [2, 3].
Streptococcus thermophilus is among the species commonly used in the dairy industry, mainly in the fermentation of yogurt and several cheese varieties, contributing to the desirable organoleptic characteristics of the final product [4, 5]. It is the sole species considered GRAS within the Streptococcus genus, which includes mostly pathogens and opportunistic pathogens . Due to the industrial significance of the species, a plethora of studies has been conducted for a number of strains, revealing information about their diverse technological features [7, 8]. Furthermore, during the last 15 years, the advance of high-throughput sequencing techniques along with the development of novel bioinformatics tools facilitated the analysis of complete genome sequences, providing information for the overall genetic content of S. thermophilus [9–12]. These studies have demonstrated that S. thermophilus strains have been adapted to the milk environment through extensive reductive evolution as indicated by the large number of pseudogenes found in all strains. Adaptation to the milk environment is also supported by the loss of genes related to carbohydrate metabolism and virulence.
In this study, we present the analysis of the complete genome sequence of S. thermophilus ACA-DC 2. The genomic insights acquired could be proven useful for the exploitation of the specific strain in the production of fermented dairy products.
Classification and features
Classification and general features of S. thermophilus strain ACA-DC 2 according to the MIGS recommendations 
Species Streptococcus thermophilus
Strain: ACA-DC 2
TAS (this study)
pH range; Optimum
lactose; saccharose; d-glucose; galactose
2% NaCl (w/v)
Genome sequencing information
Genome project history
Illumina genomic Nextera XT library;
PacBio 10 kb genomic library
Illumina HiSeq2500; PacBio RSII
ABySS v1.5.1; BLASR; SSPACE v1.0; GapFiller v1.10
Gene calling method
Prodigal; MeteGeneAnnotator; FGENESB
GenBank Date of Release
Source Material Identifier
Growth conditions and genomic DNA preparation
S. thermophilus ACA-DC 2 was grown in M17 medium (Biokar Diagnostics, Beauvais, France). For the isolation of the genomic DNA, 2 ml from an overnight culture incubated at 42 °C were used and the extraction procedure was performed according to the protocol of Pitcher et al. . The purity and the concentration of the extracted DNA were measured with a UV-Vis spectrophotometer (Q5000, Quawell, San Jose, USA) while its integrity was evaluated electrophoretically in a 0.8% agarose gel.
Genome sequencing and assembly
Whole-genome sequencing was performed using the Illumina HiSeq2500 and the PacBio RSII platforms at BaseClear service laboratory for DNA-research (Leiden, The Netherlands). Paired-end sequence reads were generated using the Illumina HiSeq2500 system. FASTQ sequence files were obtained using the Illumina Casava pipeline v1.8.3. Initial quality assessment was based on data passing the Illumina Chastity filtering. Subsequently, reads containing adapters and/or PhiX control signal were removed using an in-house filtering protocol. The second quality assessment was based on the remaining reads using the FASTQC quality control tool v0.10.0 resulting in 4,403,680 reads.
The data collected from the PacBio RSII instrument were processed and filtered using the SMRT Analysis software suite. The Continuous Long Read data were filtered by Read-length (>50), Subread-length (>50) and Read quality (>0.75) resulting in 117,020 reads.
The quality of the Illumina FASTQ sequences was enhanced by trimming off low-quality bases using the program bbduk, which is part of the BBMap suite v34.46. The quality-filtered sequence reads were puzzled into a number of contig sequences. The analysis was performed using ABySS v1.5.1. The contigs were linked and placed into super-scaffolds based on the alignment of the PacBio CLR reads with BLASR . The alignment was further used to estimate the orientation, order and distance between the contigs by the SSPACE-LongRead scaffolder v1.0 . The gapped regions within the super-scaffolds were closed in an automated manner using GapFiller v1.10 . The method takes advantage of the insert size between the Illumina paired-end reads. The assembly resulted in one circular chromosome of 1,731,838 bp.
Prediction of genes was carried out with the online programs Prodigal , MetaGeneAnnotator  and FGENESB , for comparison and verification of the obtained results. Genome annotation was performed using RAST v2.0 . Annotation anomalies, including pseudogenes, were identified using GenePRIMP . All data acquired were combined and subjected to manual curation. The WebMGA server  and the EggNog v4.5  were used for COG annotation, the Phobius web server was used for the identification of genes with transmembrane helices and genes with signal peptides  and the Pfam database was used for the identification of genes with Pfam domains . Potential pathogenic features were identified using the MP3 tool . The CRISPRs, the restriction-modification systems and the putative antimicrobial peptides were predicted using the CRISPRFinder web tool , the REBASE database  and BAGEL3 , respectively. The KODON software (Applied Maths NV, Sint-Martens-Latem, Belgium) was utilized for the visualization of synteny among the CRISPR regions of ACA-DC 2 and LMD-9 strains. The EDGAR server  was used for whole genome phylogeny and Venn diagram analysis. Circoletto  was employed for whole genome alignment among S. thermophilus strains. Finally, the genomic islands were identified through the IslandViewer 3 web-based resource .
% of Total
Genome size (bp)
DNA coding (bp)
DNA G + C (bp)
Protein coding genes
Genes in internal clusters
Genes with function prediction
Genes assigned to COGs
Genes with Pfam domains
Genes with signal peptides
Genes with transmembrane helices
Number of genes associated with general COG functional categories
Translation, ribosomal structure and biogenesis
RNA processing and modification
Replication, recombination and repair
Chromatin structure and dynamics
Cell cycle control, Cell division, chromosome partitioning
Signal transduction mechanisms
Cell wall/membrane biogenesis
Intracellular trafficking and secretion
Posttranslational modification, protein turnover, chaperones
Energy production and conversion
Carbohydrate transport and metabolism
Amino acid transport and metabolism
Nucleotide transport and metabolism
Coenzyme transport and metabolism
Lipid transport and metabolism
Inorganic ion transport and metabolism
Secondary metabolites biosynthesis, transport and catabolism
General function prediction only
Not in COGs
Insights from the genome sequence
Main genome sequence characteristics
The genome of S. thermophilus ACA-DC 2 is the smallest one described to date among the fully sequenced strains of the species deposited in NCBI and it is approximately 200 kbp smaller than the larger described genome. The majority of potential pseudogenes encode hypothetical proteins, transposases and proteins involved in carbohydrate transport and metabolism. Analysis of the genome for virulence factors with the MP3 tool revealed a number of hits (data not shown). Detailed inspection of these hits with EDGAR demonstrated that several such genes are conserved among S. thermophilus strains indicating that it is rather unlikely to be related to pathogenicity, given the safe history of the species. The high percentage of pseudogenes along with the absence of typical virulence factors for streptococci suggest that the ACA-DC 2 strain evolved through genome decay during the adaptation to the rich in nutrients dairy environment [9, 11].
S. thermophilus ACA-DC 2 carries a complete lactose-galactose operon containing the galR, galK, galT, galE, galM, lacS and lacZ genes (STACADC2_1195-1189) and it is able to ferment lactose and galactose, the latter in a fairly slow rate (data not shown). It has been reported that fermentation of galactose is limited among the strains of S. thermophilus . As mentioned above, several genes responsible for the transport and degradation of sugars, such as fructose, maltose and trehalose, have been identified as pseudogenes in the genome of ACA-DC 2, further supporting the specialization of the bacterium to catabolize lactose.
The proteolytic system of S. thermophilus ACA-DC 2 consists of several genes encoding aminopeptidases, such as pepA (STACADC2_1626), pepC (STACADC2_0202), pepF (STACADC2_0406), pepM (STACADC2_1333), pepN (STACADC2_0892), pepO (STACADC2_1656), pepP (STACADC2_1520), pepQ (STACADC2_0572), pepS (STACADC2_0058), pepT (STACADC2_0971), pepV (STACADC2_0960), and pepX (STACADC2_1446), one oligopeptide opp ABC transporter (STACADC2_1229-1233), four polar amino acid ABC transporters (STACADC2_0780-0782, STACADC2_0992-0995, STACADC2_1355-1358, STACADC2_1431-1433), two symporters for branched-chain amino acids (STACADC2_0872, STACADC2_1160), and two glutamine ABC transporters (STACADC2_0547-0548, STACADC2_1281-1282). Strain ACA-DC 2 lacks a cell wall-associated proteinase (PrtS). Although this gene may be important for optimal growth of S. thermophilus in milk, its absence is of minor significance when co-cultured with a proteolytic Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus strain, since the release of peptides by the latter is beneficial for the growth of S. thermophilus [10, 11].
Similar to other dairy bacteria, S. thermophilus ACA-DC 2 is able to synthesize exopolysaccharides (EPS) that may confer improved viscosity and texture to yogurt . The EPS cluster is flanked by a deoD gene encoding a purine nucleoside phosphorylase (STACADC2_0949) and a pseudogene originally encoding a beta-glucosidase. Four of these genes, namely epsA (STACADC2_0948), epsB (STACADC2_0947), epsC (STACADC2_0946) and epsD (STACADC2_0945) are implicated in the regulation, polymerization, chain length and export of the EPS and are conserved among several S. thermophilus strains .
The genome analysis of strain ACA-DC 2 revealed a number of genes known to be responsive to unfavorable conditions prevailing during industrial applications. Among them we identified conserved heat shock genes like grpE, dnaK, dnaJ (STACADC2_0105-0107) and groES, groEL (STACADC2_0179-0180), genes encoding Clp proteases (STACADC2_0071, STACADC2_0315, STACADC2_0526, STACADC2_0544, STACADC2_1391), a proton translocating F0F1-ATPase system (STACADC2_0430-0437) and a P-type calcium pump ATPase (STACADC2_0983). The strain also harbors genes related to oxidative stress, namely a Mn-superoxide dismutase (STACADC2_0657), a glutathione reductase (STACADC2_0362), two thioredoxins (STACADC2_1043, STACADC2_1624), two thioredoxin reductases (STACADC2_1208, STACADC2_1429), a NADH oxidase (STACADC2_1113) and two sulfoxide reductases (STACADC2_1408, STACADC2_1159). Furthermore, the genome carries four putative antimicrobial peptides that need further investigation (STACADC2_0091, STACADC2_1453, STACADC2_1458 and STACADC2_1709).
Comparative genomic analysis, strain specific genomic features and genomic islands
The genome of S. thermophilus ACA-DC 2 presents characteristics in accordance with its adaptation to the milk environment including a high percentage of pseudogenes and absence of pathogenic features. Our analysis revealed that the strain carries genes involved in lactose and galactose catabolism and protein degradation that may accommodate its growth during milk fermentation. Stress response related genes that may contribute to survival under technological hurdles were also detected. Whole genome phylogeny suggested that S. thermophilus strains may diversify in three phylogenetic clades. Comparative analysis of genomes representative of each clade, including strain ACA-DC 2, revealed a number of unique genes for the latter. Furthermore, certain unique genes or genes belonging to GIs could be related to technological properties important for starter cultures. Theoretically, such genes could have been acquired through HGT. These findings render S. thermophilus ACA-DC 2 an appropriate candidate for use in the production of fermented dairy products.
Agricultural College of Athens - Dairy Collection
Continuous long read
Clusters of Orthologous Groups
Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats
European nucleotide archive
Gene prediction improvement pipeline
Generally regarded as safe
Horizontal gene transfer
Rapid annotation using subsystem technology
Single molecule real time
We would like to thank Dr. Nikos Kyrpides at the Joint Genome Institute (United States Department of Energy) for the analysis of the ACA-DC 2 genome with the GenePrimp server. Furthermore we would like to thank Prof. Konstantinos Fasseas at the Faculty of Crop Science (Agricultural University of Athens) for the transmission electron microscopy experiment.
The present work was co-financed by the European Social Fund and the National resources EPEAEK and YPEPTH through the Thales project.
VA performed genome analysis and participated in the writing of the manuscript. MK performed genome analysis and participated in the writing of the manuscript. JB performed genome analysis. BP performed genome analysis. ET characterized strain ACA-DC 2, conceived the project and participated in the writing of the manuscript. KP conceived the project, performed genome analysis and participated in the writing of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
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