Sugar utilisation and conservation of the gal-lac gene cluster in Streptococcus thermophilus

P.T.C. van den Bogaard, P. Hols, O.P. Kuipers, M. Kleerebezem, W.M. de Vos

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27 Citations (Scopus)


The adaptation to utilise lactose as primary carbon and energy source is a characteristic for Streptococcus thermophilus. These organisms, however only utilise the glucose moiety of lactose while the galactose moiety is excreted into the growth medium. In this study we evaluated the diversity of sugar utilisation and the conservation of the gal-lac gene cluster in a collection of 18 S. thermophilus strains isolated from a variety of sources. For this purpose analysis was performed on DNA from these isolates and the results were compared with those obtained with a strain from which the complete genome sequence has been determined. The sequence, organisation and flanking regions of the S. thermophilus gal-lac gene cluster were found to be highly conserved among all strains. The vast majority of the S. thermophilus strains were able to utilize only glucose, lactose, and sucrose as carbon sources, some strains could also utilize fructose and two of these were able to grow on galactose. Molecular characterisation of these naturally occurring Gal+ strains revealed up-mutations in the galKTE promoter that were absent in all other strains. These data support the hypothesis that the loss of the ability to ferment galactose can be attributed to the low activity of the galKTE promoter, probably as a consequence of the adaptation to milk in which the lactose levels are in excess.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-17
JournalSystematic and Applied Microbiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • lactose transport-system
  • 16s ribosomal-rna
  • beta-galactosidase
  • exopolysaccharide production
  • phosphotransferase systems
  • escherichia-coli
  • acid bacteria
  • phosphoenolpyruvate
  • expression
  • transcription


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