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Aims: To investigate the basic properties of six temperate and three virulent phages, active on Lactobacillus fermentum, on the basis of morphology, host ranges, protein composition and genome characterization.

Methods and Results: All phages belonged to the Siphoviridae family; two of them showed prolate heads. The host ranges of seven phages contained a common group of strains. SDS-PAGE protein profiles, restriction analysis of DNA and Southern blot hybridization revealed a high degree of homology between four temperate phages; partial homologies were also detected among virulent and temperate phages. Clustering derived from host range analysis was not related to the results of the DNA hybridizations.

Conclusions: The phages investigated have common characteristics with other known phages active on the genus Lactobacillus. Sensitivity to viral infection is apparently enhanced by the presence of a resident prophage.

Significance and Impact of the Study: These relationships contribute to the explanation for the origin of phage infection in food processes where Lact. fermentum is involved, such as sourdough fermentation.