Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 100, Issue 5, pp 2141–2151 | Cite as

Bacteriophage-encoded depolymerases: their diversity and biotechnological applications

  • Diana P. Pires
  • Hugo Oliveira
  • Luís D. R. Melo
  • Sanna Sillankorva
  • Joana AzeredoEmail author


Bacteriophages (phages), natural enemies of bacteria, can encode enzymes able to degrade polymeric substances. These substances can be found in the bacterial cell surface, such as polysaccharides, or are produced by bacteria when they are living in biofilm communities, the most common bacterial lifestyle. Consequently, phages with depolymerase activity have a facilitated access to the host receptors, by degrading the capsular polysaccharides, and are believed to have a better performance against bacterial biofilms, since the degradation of extracellular polymeric substances by depolymerases might facilitate the access of phages to the cells within different biofilm layers. Since the diversity of phage depolymerases is not yet fully explored, this is the first review gathering information about all the depolymerases encoded by fully sequenced phages. Overall, in this study, 160 putative depolymerases, including sialidases, levanases, xylosidases, dextranases, hyaluronidases, peptidases as well as pectate/pectin lyases, were found in 143 phages (43 Myoviridae, 47 Siphoviridae, 37 Podoviridae, and 16 unclassified) infecting 24 genera of bacteria. We further provide information about the main applications of phage depolymerases, which can comprise areas as diverse as medical, chemical, or food-processing industry.


Bacteriophages Phage depolymerases Capsular polysaccharides Biofilms 



DPP acknowledges the financial support from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) through the grant SFRH/BD/76440/2011. SS is an FCT investigator (IF/01413/2013). The authors also thank FCT for the Strategic Project of the UID/BIO/04469/2013 unit, FCT and European Union funds (FEDER/COMPETE) for the project RECI/BBB-EBI/0179/2012 (FCOMP-01-0124-FEDER-027462).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

253_2015_7247_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (383 kb)
Table S1 (PDF 382 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diana P. Pires
    • 1
  • Hugo Oliveira
    • 1
  • Luís D. R. Melo
    • 1
  • Sanna Sillankorva
    • 1
  • Joana Azeredo
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Centre of Biological EngineeringUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal

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