Many bacteriophages produce small proteins that specifically interfere with the bacterial host transcription machinery and thus contribute to the acquisition of the bacterial cell by the bacteriophage. We recently described how a small protein, called P7, produced by the Xp10 bacteriophage inhibits bacterial transcription initiation by causing the dissociation of the promoter specificity sigma factor subunit from the host RNA polymerase holoenzyme. In this addendum to the original publication, we present the highlights of that research.
bacterial RNA polymerase; bacteriophage; inhibitor; sigma factor; transcription
Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is an emerging threat requiring urgent solutions. Ever since their discovery, lytic bacteriophages have been suggested as therapeutic agents, but their application faces various obstacles: sequestration of the phage by the spleen and liver, antibodies against the phage, narrow host range, poor accessibility to the infected tissue, and bacterial resistance. Variations on bacteriophage use have been suggested, such as temperate phages as gene-delivery vehicles into pathogens. This approach, which is proposed to sensitize pathogens residing on hospital surfaces and medical personnel's skin, and its prospects are described in this addendum. Furthermore, phage-encoded products have been proposed as weapons against antibiotic resistance in bacteria. We describe a new phage protein which was identified during basic research into T7 bacteriophages. This protein may serendipitously prove useful for treating antibiotic-resistant pathogens. We believe that further basic research will lead to novel strategies in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
temperate bacteriophage; sensitizing gene; lysin; host takeover; bacterial division
Viruses are the most abundant biological entities on the planet, yet most classical principles of evolutionary biology and ecology were not developed with viruses in mind. Here, the concept of biological tradeoffs, a fundamental tenet of life history theory, is examined in the context of bacteriophage biology. Specifically, several important parameters of phage life histories—replication, persistence, host range, and adsorption—are evaluated for tradeoffs. Available data indicate that replication rate is strongly negatively correlated with both persistence and host range, suggesting that the well-documented tradeoff in macroorganisms between offspring production and offspring quality also applies to phages. The biological tradeoffs that appear to characterize viruses’ life histories have potential importance for viral evolution, ecology, and pathogenesis.
adsorption; bacteriophages; biological tradeoffs; ECOR; host range; life history theory; microbial ecology; replication rate; viral evolution
The tailed double-stranded DNA bacteriophages, or Caudovirales, constitute ~96% of all the known phages. Although these phages come in a great variety of sizes and morphology, their virions are mainly constructed of similar molecular building blocks via similar assembly pathways. Here we review the structure of tailed double-stranded DNA bacteriophages at a molecular level, emphasizing the structural similarity and common evolutionary origin of proteins that constitute these virions.
bacteriophage structure; Caudovirales; tailed double-stranded DNA bacteriophages; virus structure; virus capsids; phage tails; phage proteins
The sequencing of marine metagenomic fosmids led to the discovery of several new complete phage genomes. Among the 21 major sequence groups, 10 totally novel groups of marine phages could be identified. Some of these represent the first phages infecting large marine prokaryotic phyla, such as the Verrucomicrobia and the recently described Ca. Actinomarinales. Coming from a single deep photic zone sample the diversity of phages found is astonishing, and the comparison with a metavirome from the same location indicates that only 2% of the real diversity was recovered. In addition to this large macro-diversity, rich micro-diversity was also found, affecting host-recognition modules, mirroring the variation of cell surface components in their host marine microbes.
metagenomics; metavirome; marine phages; deep chlorophyll maximum; constant-diversity; red-queen; phage evolution; pan-selectome; pan-genome
Bacterial contamination of food products presents a challenge for the food industry and poses a high risk for the consumer. Despite increasing awareness and improved hygiene measures, foodborne pathogens remain a threat for public health, and novel methods for detection of these organisms are needed. Bacteriophages represent ideal tools for diagnostic assays because of their high target cell specificity, inherent signal-amplifying properties, easy and inexpensive production, and robustness. Every stage of the phage lytic multiplication cycle, from the initial recognition of the host cell to the final lysis event, may be harnessed in several ways for the purpose of bacterial detection. Besides intact phage particles, phage-derived affinity molecules such as cell wall binding domains and receptor binding proteins can serve for this purpose. This review provides an overview of existing phage-based technologies for detection of foodborne pathogens, and highlights the most recent developments in this field, with particular emphasis on phage-based biosensors.
foodborne pathogens; bacterial detection; diagnostics; reporter phage; biosensor; phage amplification; cell wall binding domain; receptor binding protein
Extensive research is currently being conducted on the use of bacteriophages for applications in human medicine, agriculture and food manufacturing. However, phages are important vehicles of horisontal gene transfer and play a significant role in bacterial evolution. As a result, concern has been raised that this increased use and dissemination of phages could result in spread of deleterious genes, e.g., antibiotic resistance and virulence genes.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the genomic era, several tools have been developed for characterization of bacterial genomes. Here we describe how two of these tools, ResFinder and VirulenceFinder, can be used to identify acquired antibiotic resistance and virulence genes in phage genomes of interest. The general applicability of the tools is demonstrated on data sets of 1,642 phage genomes and 1,442 predicted prophages.
antibiotic resistance genes; virulence genes; lysogenic conversion; horizontal gene transfer; web-services; prediction; genomics
The lysogenic state of the λ switch is exceptionally stable, still, it is capable of responding to DNA-damage and rapidly enter the lytic state. We invented an assay where PNA mediated tethering of a plasmid allowed for single molecule investigations of the effect of supercoiling on the efficiency of the epigenetic λ switch. Compared with non-supercoiled DNA, the presence of supercoils enhances the CI-mediated DNA looping probability and renders the transition between the looped and unlooped states steeper, thus increasing the Hill coefficient. Interestingly, the transition occurs exactly at the CI concentration corresponding to the minimum number of CI molecules capable of maintaining the pRM-repressed state. Based on these results we propose that supercoiling maintains the pRM-repressible state as CI concentration decline during induction and thus prevent autoregulation of cI from interfering with induction.
CI protein; PNA; cooperativity; epigenetics; supercoiling; tethered particle motion; λ switch
Designing lab exercises for introductory biology classes requires balancing the need for students to obtain results with a desire to provide unpredictable outcomes to better approximate actual research. Bacteriophage are particularly well suited for this as many species are well-understood but, with their hosts, represent a relatively complex interacting system. I have designed a seven week series of lab exercises that allow students to select bacteriophage resistant mutant hosts, isolate and sequence the corresponding receptor gene to identify the specific bacterial mutation from a large number of potential mutations. I also examined the possibility of collecting useful mutant strains for other studies. After two semesters, the lab series is working well with over 90% of students successfully isolating mutant bacteria and about half identifying the specific mutation. Here I discuss the advantages of using bacteriophage in an introductory class, the specific labs in this series and future plans.
teaching; laboratory teaching; bacteriophage T5; host range; receptor; receptor binding protein
The XXIIIrd Phage/Virus Assembly (PVA) meeting returned to its birthplace in Lake Arrowhead, CA on September 8–13, 2013 (Fig. 1). The original meeting occurred in 1968, organized by Bob Edgar (Caltech, Pasadena, CA USA), Fred Eiserling (University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA USA) and Bill Wood (Caltech, Pasadena, CA USA). The organizers of the 2013 meeting were Bill Gelbart (University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA USA) and Jack Johnson (Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA USA). This meeting specializes in an egalitarian format. Students are distinguished from senior faculty primarily by the signs of age. With the exception of historically based introductory talks, all talks were allotted the same time and freedom. This tradition began when the meeting was phage-only and has been continued now that all viruses are included. Many were the animated conversations about basic questions. New and international participants were present, a sign that the field has significant attraction, as it should, based on details below. The meeting was also characterized by a sense of humor and generally good times, a chance to both enjoy the science and forget the funding malaise to which many participants are exposed. I will present some of the meeting content, without attempting to be comprehensive.
capsid assembly; viral structure; viral drug delivery vehicle; DNA injection; viral tail assembly; bacteriophage; nucleic acid packaging; viral vaccines; nanoparticle
In a recent study, we identified and characterized the long-elusive replicative single-stranded DNA-binding protein of bacteriophage T5, which we showed is related to the eukaryotic transcription coactivator PC4. Here, we provide an extended discussion of these data, report several additional observations and consider implications for the recombination-dependent replication mechanism of the T5 genus, which is still poorly understood.
T5; SSB; single-stranded DNA; PC4; replication; recombination; repair; 3R; RDR
Listeria is an important foodborne pathogen and the causative agent of Listeriosis, a potentially fatal infection. Several hundred Listeria bacteriophages have been described over the past decades, but only few have actually been characterized in some detail, and genome sequences are available for less than twenty of them. We here present an overview of what is currently known about Listeria phage genomics, their role in host evolution and pathogenicity, and their various applications in biotechnology and diagnostics.
CRISPR; Mosaic genomes; biocontrol; comK; endolysin; homologous recombination; pathogen detection; reporter phage
The purpose of this project was to determine whether bacteriophage can reduce bacterial colonization and biofilm formation on central venous catheter material. Twenty silicone discs were inoculated for 24 h with broth culture of Methicillin sensitive staphylococcus aureus (0.5 McFarland standard). The inoculate was aspirated and discs placed into two equal groups for 24 h: (1) untreated controls; (2) bacteriophage treatment (staphylococcal bacteriophage K, propagated titer > 108). At the completion of the experiment discs were processed for quantitative culture. Statistical testing was performed using the rank sum test. Mean colony forming units (CFU) were significantly decreased in experimental compared with controls (control 6.3 × 105 CFU, experimental 6.7 × 101, P ≤ 0.0001). Application of bacteriophage to biofilm infected central venous catheter material significantly reduced bacterial colonization and biofilm presence. Our data suggests that bacteriophage treatment may be a feasible strategy for addressing central venous catheter staph aureus biofilm infections.
central venous catheters; biofilm; phage therapy; staph aureus; bacteriophage k
P128 is a chimeric anti-staphylococcal protein having a catalytic domain from a Staphylococcus bacteriophage K tail associated structural protein and a cell wall targeting domain from the Staphylococcus bacteriocin-lysostaphin. In this study, we disclose additional properties of P128 and compared the same with lysostaphin. While lysostaphin was found to get inactivated by heat and was inactive on its parent strain S. simulans biovar staphylolyticus, P128 was thermostable and was lytic towards S. simulans biovar staphylolyticus demonstrating a difference in their mechanism of action. Selected mutation studies of the catalytic domain of P128 showed that arginine and cysteine, at 40th and 76th positions respectively, are critical for the staphylolytic activity of P128, although these amino acids are not conserved residues. In comparison to native P128, only the R40S mutant (P301) was catalytically active on zymogram gel and had a similar secondary structure, as assessed by circular dichroism analysis and in silico modeling with similar cell binding properties. Mutation of the arginine residue at 40th position of the P128 molecule caused dramatic reduction in the Vmax (∆OD600 [mg/min]) value (nearly 270 fold) and the recombinant lysostaphin also showed lesser Vmax value (nearly 1.5 fold) in comparison to the unmodified P128 protein. The kinetic parameters such as apparent Km (Km
APP) and apparent Kcat (KcatAPP) of the native P128 protein also showed significant differences in comparison to the values observed for P301 and lysostaphin.
Staphylococcus aureus; methicillin resistance; arginine mutation; disulfide bonds; in silico modeling; western blot
Characterization of prophages in sequenced bacterial genomes is important for virulence assessment, evolutionary analysis, and phage application development. The objective of this study was to identify complete, inducible prophages in the cystic fibrosis (CF) clinical isolate Burkholderia cenocepacia H111. Using the prophage-finding program PHAge Search Tool (PHAST), we identified three putative intact prophages in the H111 sequence. Virions were readily isolated from H111 culture supernatants following extended incubation. Using shotgun cloning and sequencing, one of these virions (designated ϕH111-1 [vB_BceM_ϕH111-1]) was identified as the infective particle of a PHAST-detected intact prophage. ϕH111-1 has an extremely broad host range with respect to B. cenocepacia strains and is predicted to use lipopolysaccharide (LPS) as a receptor. Bioinformatics analysis indicates that the prophage is 42,972 base pairs in length, encodes 54 proteins, and shows relatedness to the virion morphogenesis modules of AcaML1 and “Vhmllikevirus” myoviruses. As ϕH111-1 is active against a broad panel of clinical strains and encodes no putative virulence factors, it may be therapeutically effective for Burkholderia infections.
prophage identification; PHAST; bioinformatics; phage therapy; Burkholderia cepacia complex
We recently described a novel, non-host-derived, phage-mediated immunity active at mucosal surfaces, the main site of pathogen entry in metazoans. In that work, we showed that phage T4 adheres to mucus glycoproteins via immunoglobulin-like domains displayed on its capsid. This adherence positions the phage in mucus surfaces where they are more likely to encounter and kill bacteria, thereby benefiting both the phage and its metazoan host. We presented this phage-metazoan symbiosis based on an exclusively lytic model of phage infection. Here we extend our bacteriophage adherence to mucus (BAM) model to consider the undoubtedly more complex dynamics in vivo. We hypothesize how mucus-adherent phages, both lytic and temperate, might impact the commensal microbiota as well as protect the metazoan epithelium from bacterial invasion. We suggest that BAM may provide both an innate and an acquired antimicrobial immunity.
phage; bacteriophage; immune system; mucus; lysogen; lytic
A cocktail of six lytic bacteriophages, SalmoFresh™, significantly (p < 0.05) reduced the number of surface-applied Salmonella Kentucky and Brandenburg from stainless steel and glass surfaces by > 99% (2.1–4.3 log). Both strains were susceptible to SalmoFresh™ in the spot-test assay. Conversely, SalmoFresh™ was unable to reduce surface contamination with a Salmonella Paratyphi B strain that was not susceptible to the phage cocktail in the spot-test assay. However, by replacing two SalmoFresh™ component phages with two new phages capable of lysing the Paratyphi B strain in the spot-test assay, the target range of the cocktail was shifted to include the Salmonella Paratyphi B strain. The modified cocktail, SalmoLyse™, was able to significantly (p < 0.05) reduce surface contamination of the Paratyphi B strain by > 99% (2.1–4.1 log). The data show that both phage cocktails were effective in significantly reducing the levels of Salmonella on hard surfaces, provided the contaminating strains were susceptible in the spot-test (i.e., spot-test susceptibility was indicative of efficacy in subsequent surface decontamination studies). The data also support the concept that phage preparations can be customized to meet the desired antibacterial application.
Salmonella; SalmoFresh™; SalmoLyse™; bacteriophage; food safety; phage; surface decontamination
biophysics; head structure; head-tail joining; self-assembly; symmetry
Although the study of phage infection has a long history and catalyzed much of our current understanding in bacterial genetics, molecular biology, evolution and ecology, it seems that microbiologists have only just begun to explore the intricacy of phage–host interactions. In a recent manuscript by Cenens et al. we found molecular and genetic support for pseudolysogenic development in the Salmonella Typhimurium–phage P22 model system. More specifically, we observed the existence of phage carrier cells harboring an episomal P22 element that segregated asymmetrically upon subsequent divisions. Moreover, a newly discovered P22 ORFan protein (Pid) able to derepress a metabolic operon of the host (dgo) proved to be specifically expressed in these phage carrier cells. In this addendum we expand on our view regarding pseudolysogeny and its effects on bacterial and phage biology.
Salmonella Typhimurium; phage P22; phage carrier state; phage–host interactions; pseudolysogeny
The control of shigellosis in humans enjoys a prominent position in the history of bacteriophage therapy. d’Herelle first demonstrated the efficacy of phage therapy by curing 4 patients of shigellosis, and several subsequent studies confirmed the ability of phages to reduce Shigella based infection. Shigella spp continue to cause millions of illnesses and deaths each year and the use of phages to control the disease in humans and the spread of the bacteria within food and water could point the way forward to the effective management of an infectious disease with global influence.
shigellosis; control; bacteriophage therapy; food safety; shiga toxins
Four novel, closely related podoviruses, which displayed lytic activity against the gamma-proteobacterium Alteromonas macleodii, have been isolated and sequenced. Alterophages AltAD45-P1 to P4 were obtained from water recovered near a fish farm in the Mediterranean Sea. Their morphology indicates that they belong to the Podoviridae. Their linear and dsDNA genomes are 100–104 kb in size, remarkably larger than any other described podovirus. The four AltAD45-phages share 99% nucleotide sequence identity over 97% of their ORFs, although an insertion was found in AltAD45-P1 and P2 and some regions were slightly more divergent. Despite the high overall sequence similarity among these four phages, the group with the insertion and the group without it, have different host ranges against the A. macleodii strains tested. The AltAD45-P1 to P4 phages have genes for DNA replication and transcription as well as structural genes, which are similar to the N4-like Podoviridae genus that is widespread in proteobacteria. However, in terms of their genomic structure, AltAD45-P1 to P4 differ from that of the N4-like phages. Some distinguishing features include the lack of a large virion encapsidated RNA polymerase gene, very well conserved among all the previously described N4-like phages, a single-stranded DNA binding protein and different tail protein genes. We conclude that the AltAD45 phages characterized in this study constitute a new genus within the Podoviridae.
Alteromonas macleodii; Podoviridae; N4-like virus; lytic phage; marine phages