Bacteriophages in Industry


Traditionally, bacteriophages (phages) have been regarded as a nuisance in industrial processes that rely on bacterial fermentation. In particular, the dairy industry has struggled with phage‐induced fermentation failure in the production of fermented food products. Phages attack the bacteria and slow or stop the fermentation process, resulting in reduced product quality and considerable financial loss. Significant effort has been dedicated by the dairy industry to combating phage infection. However, phage research has provided the molecular insight and tools required to exploit biological systems. This ability has provided the platform for the current expansion in biotechnology‐based industries.

Keywords: bacteriophage; biotechnology; recombinant DNA; fermentation; resistance mechanisms

Figure 1.

Molecular tools and enzymes derived from the study of bacteriophage (see text for details). (a) Phage DNA is injected from the phage particle and either integrates in the chromosome (lysogeny) or enters the lytic cycle. (b) In the lytic cycle, phage DNA replicates as either a linear molecule or via theta/rolling circle replication (RCR) as a circular form. (c) Phage proteins redirect the host's cellular machinery to produce the building blocks of the virion. (d) Phage DNA is packaged in the capsid of the phage particle and cell lysis is effected to release progeny phage.

Figure 2.

Schematic representation of a bacteriophage particle. The phage DNA is encapsulated in the capsid before the release of progeny phage from the cell by DNA‐packaging mechanisms. Insertion of foreign DNA into the gene encoding a capsid protein results in expression of the introduced peptide or protein on the surface of the phage.

Figure 3.

Naturally occurring and recombinant phage defence mechanisms.



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Callanan, Michael J, and Klaenhammer, Todd R(Sep 2008) Bacteriophages in Industry. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0000776.pub2]