Genome-informed approach to identify genetic determinants of Flavobacterium psychrophilum phage susceptibility

Castillo Daniel, Jørgensen Johanna, Sundell Krister, Madsen Lone, Dalsgaard Inger, Wiklund Tom, Middelboe Mathias*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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The fish pathogen Flavobacterium psychrophilum infects farmed salmonids worldwide, and application of bacteriophages has been suggested for controlling disease outbreaks in aquaculture. Successful application of phages requires detailed knowledge about the variability in phage susceptibility of the host communities. In this study we analyzed the genetic diversity of F. psychrophilum hosts and phages from the Baltic Sea area, to identify genetic determinants of phage-host interaction patterns. A host range analysis of 103 phages tested against 177 F. psychrophilum strains (18,231 phage-host interactions) identified 9 phage clusters, infecting from 10% to 91% of the strain collection. The core genome-based comparison of 35 F. psychrophilum isolates revealed an extremely low overall genomic diversity (>99.5% similarity). However, a small subset of 16 ORFs, including genes involved in the type IX secretion system (T9SS), gliding motility and hypothetical cell-surface related proteins, exhibited a highly elevated genetic diversity. These specific genetic variations were linked to variability in phage infection patterns obtained from experimental studies, indicating that these genes are key determinants of phage susceptibility. These findings provide novel insights on the molecular mechanisms determining phage susceptibility in F. psychrophilum and emphasizes the importance of phages as drivers of core genomic diversity in this pathogen.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)4185-4199
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Bacteriophage
  • Phage therapy
  • Specificity
  • Virus-host interaction


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