Members of the genus Lactobacillus represent the most common colonizers of the human vagina and are well-known for preserving vaginal health and contrasting the colonization of oppor-tunistic pathogens. Remarkably, high abundance of Lactobacillus crispatus in the vaginal environment has been linked to vaginal health, leading to the widespread use of many L. crispatus strains as probi-otics. Nevertheless, despite the scientific and industrial relevance of this species, a comprehensive investigation of the genomics of L. crispatus taxon is still missing. For this reason, we have performed a comparative genomics analysis of 97 L. crispatus strains, encompassing 16 strains sequenced in the framework of this study alongside 81 additional publicly available genome sequences. Thus, allowing the dissection of the L. crispatus pan-genome and core-genome followed by a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis based on the predicted core genes that revealed clustering based on ecological origin. Subsequently, a genomics-targeted approach, i.e., probiogenomics analysis, was applied for in-depth analysis of the eight L. crispatus strains of human origin sequenced in this study. In detail their genetic repertoire was screened for strain-specific genes responsible for phenotypic features that may guide the identification of optimal candidates for next-generation probiotics. The latter includes bacteriocin production, carbohydrates transport and metabolism, as well as a range of features that may be responsible for improved ecological fitness. In silico results regarding the genetic repertoire involved in carbohydrate metabolism were also validated by growth assays on a range of sugars, leading to the selection of putative novel probiotic strains.
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