Worst-case scenarios for horizontal gene transfer from Lactococcus lactis carrying heterologous genes to Enterococcus faecalis in the digestive tract of gnotobiotic mice.
The use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in dairy products requires evaluation of the DNA transfer capacity from such organisms among the human intestinal microflora. Thus, both in vitro and in vivo [in the digestive tract (DT) of mice] transfer from Lactococcus lactis donor strains of the conjugative plasmid pIL205 (CmR) and the non-conjugative plasmid pIL253 (EmR) to: (1) recipient strains isolated from human faecal flora Bacteroides sp., Bifidobacterium sp., Peptostreptococcus sp. (strictly anaerobic bacterial strains) and Enterococcus faecalis, (2) a whole human faecal flora, was studied. In both cases, no gene transfer was observed to strictly anaerobic bacterial strains. DNA transfer was only observed to the E. faecalis strain: in vivo CmR E. faecalis transconjugants were isolated from sequentially multi-associated mice and when the recipient strains associated with the mice, they were a defined mixture of Bacteroides sp., Bifidobacterium sp., Peptostreptococcus sp. and E. faecalis strains. When mice were associated with the whole human faecal flora, the plasmid pIL205 was transferred into some facultative anaerobic streptococci. It was also shown that DNA transfer occurred even when the lactococcal donor strain was transient in the DT of the gnotobiotic host animals.