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1.  Different Expression Patterns of Genes from the Exo-Xis Region of Bacteriophage λ and Shiga Toxin-Converting Bacteriophage Ф24B following Infection or Prophage Induction in Escherichia coli 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e108233.
Lambdoid bacteriophages serve as useful models in microbiological and molecular studies on basic biological process. Moreover, this family of viruses plays an important role in pathogenesis of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) strains, as they are carriers of genes coding for Shiga toxins. Efficient expression of these genes requires lambdoid prophage induction and multiplication of the phage genome. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms regulating these processes appears essential for both basic knowledge and potential anti-EHEC applications. The exo-xis region, present in genomes of lambdoid bacteriophages, contains highly conserved genes of largely unknown functions. Recent report indicated that the Ea8.5 protein, encoded in this region, contains a newly discovered fused homeodomain/zinc-finger fold, suggesting its plausible regulatory role. Moreover, subsequent studies demonstrated that overexpression of the exo-xis region from a multicopy plasmid resulted in impaired lysogenization of E. coli and more effective induction of λ and Ф24B prophages. In this report, we demonstrate that after prophage induction, the increase in phage DNA content in the host cells is more efficient in E. coli bearing additional copies of the exo-xis region, while survival rate of such bacteria is lower, which corroborated previous observations. Importantly, by using quantitative real-time reverse transcription PCR, we have determined patterns of expressions of particular genes from this region. Unexpectedly, in both phages λ and Ф24B, these patterns were significantly different not only between conditions of the host cells infection by bacteriophages and prophage induction, but also between induction of prophages with various agents (mitomycin C and hydrogen peroxide). This may shed a new light on our understanding of regulation of lambdoid phage development, depending on the mode of lytic cycle initiation.
PMCID: PMC4195576  PMID: 25310402
2.  High-Throughput Method for Rapid Induction of Prophages from Lysogens and Its Application in the Study of Shiga Toxin-Encoding Escherichia coli Strains ▿  
A high-throughput 96-well plate-based method for the rapid induction of endogenous prophages from individual bacterial strains was developed. The detection of endogenous prophages was achieved by the filtration of the culture liquor following norfloxacin induction and subsequent PCRs targeting bacteriophage-carried gene markers. The induction method was tested on 188 putative Shiga toxin (Stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains and demonstrated the ability to detect both lambdoid and stx-carrying bacteriophages in strains for which plaques were not observed via plaque assay. Lambdoid bacteriophages were detected in 37% of the induced phage preparations via amplification of the Q gene, and Stx1- and Stx2-encoding phages were detected in 2 and 14% of the strains, respectively. The method therefore provided greater sensitivity for the detection of Stx and other lambdoid bacteriophage populations carried by STEC strains than that for the established method of plaque assay using bacterial indicator strains, enabling, for the first time, large-scale bacteriophage population and diversity studies.
PMCID: PMC2849228  PMID: 20139312
3.  Stability and Infectivity of Cytolethal Distending Toxin Type V Gene-Carrying Bacteriophages in a Water Mesocosm and under Different Inactivation Conditions 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(16):5818-5823.
Two cytolethal distending toxin (Cdt) type V-encoding bacteriophages (Φ62 and Φ125) were induced spontaneously from their wild-type Escherichia coli strains and from the lysogens generated in Shigella sonnei. The stability of Cdt phages was determined at various temperatures and pH values after 1 month of storage by means of infectivity tests using a plaque blot assay and analysis of phage genomes using real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR): both were highly stable. We assessed the inactivation of Cdt phages by thermal treatment, chlorination, UV radiation, and in a mesocosm in both summer and winter. The results for the two Cdt phages showed similar trends and were also similar to the phage SOM23 used for reference, but they showed a much higher persistence than Cdt-producing E. coli. Cdt phages showed maximal inactivation after 1 h at 70°C, 30 min of UV radiation, and 30 min of contact with a 10-ppm chlorine treatment. Inactivation in a mesocosm was higher in summer than in winter, probably because of solar radiation. The treatments reduced the number of infectious phages but did not have a significant effect on the Cdt phage particles detected by qPCR. Cdt phages were quantified by qPCR in 73% of river samples, and these results suggest that Cdt phages are a genetic vehicle and the natural reservoir for cdt in the environment.
PMCID: PMC3406162  PMID: 22685154
4.  High Temperature in Combination with UV Irradiation Enhances Horizontal Transfer of stx2 Gene from E. coli O157:H7 to Non-Pathogenic E. coli 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31308.
Shiga toxin (stx) genes have been transferred to numerous bacteria, one of which is E. coli O157:H7. It is a common belief that stx gene is transferred by bacteriophages, because stx genes are located on lambdoid prophages in the E. coli O157:H7 genome. Both E. coli O157:H7 and non-pathogenic E. coli are highly enriched in cattle feedlots. We hypothesized that strong UV radiation in combination with high temperature accelerates stx gene transfer into non-pathogenic E. coli in feedlots.
Methodology/Principal Findings
E. coli O157:H7 EDL933 strain were subjected to different UV irradiation (0 or 0.5 kJ/m2) combination with different temperature (22, 28, 30, 32, and 37°C) treatments, and the activation of lambdoid prophages was analyzed by plaque forming unit while induction of Stx2 prophages was quantified by quantitative real-time PCR. Data showed that lambdoid prophages in E. coli O157:H7, including phages carrying stx2, were activated under UV radiation, a process enhanced by elevated temperature. Consistently, western blotting analysis indicated that the production of Shiga toxin 2 was also dramatically increased by UV irradiation and high temperature. In situ colony hybridization screening indicated that these activated Stx2 prophages were capable of converting laboratory strain of E. coli K12 into new Shiga toxigenic E. coli, which were further confirmed by PCR and ELISA analysis.
These data implicate that high environmental temperature in combination with UV irradiation accelerates the spread of stx genes through enhancing Stx prophage induction and Stx phage mediated gene transfer. Cattle feedlot sludge are teemed with E. coli O157:H7 and non-pathogenic E. coli, and is frequently exposed to UV radiation via sunlight, which may contribute to the rapid spread of stx gene to non-pathogenic E. coli and diversity of shiga toxin producing E. coli.
PMCID: PMC3276539  PMID: 22347461
5.  Shiga Toxin 2-Encoding Bacteriophages in Human Fecal Samples from Healthy Individuals 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(16):4862-4868.
Shiga toxin-converting bacteriophages (Stx phages) carry the stx gene and convert nonpathogenic bacterial strains into Shiga toxin-producing bacteria. Previous studies have shown that high densities of free and infectious Stx phages are found in environments polluted with feces and also in food samples. Taken together, these two findings suggest that Stx phages could be excreted through feces, but this has not been tested to date. In this study, we purified Stx phages from 100 fecal samples from 100 healthy individuals showing no enteric symptoms. The phages retrieved from each sample were then quantified by quantitative PCR (qPCR). In total, 62% of the samples carried Stx phages, with an average value of 2.6 × 104 Stx phages/g. This result confirms the excretion of free Stx phages by healthy humans. Moreover, the Stx phages from feces were able to propagate in enrichment cultures of stx-negative Escherichia coli (strains C600 and O157:H7) and in Shigella sonnei, indicating that at least a fraction of the Stx phages present were infective. Plaque blot hybridization revealed lysis by Stx phages from feces. Our results confirm the presence of infectious free Stx phages in feces from healthy persons, possibly explaining the environmental prevalence observed in previous studies. It cannot be ruled out, therefore, that some positive stx results obtained during the molecular diagnosis of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC)-related diseases using stool samples are due to the presence of Stx phages.
PMCID: PMC3754710  PMID: 23747705
6.  Isolation and genomic characterization of SfI, a serotype-converting bacteriophage of Shigella flexneri 
BMC Microbiology  2013;13:39.
All Shigella flexneri serotypes except serotype 6 share a common O-antigen tetrasaccharide backbone and nearly all variations between serotypes are due to glucosyl and/or O-acetyl modifications of the common O unit mediated by glycosyltransferases encoded by serotype-converting bacteriophages. Several S. flexneri serotype-converting phages including SfV, SfX, Sf6 and SfII have been isolated and characterized. However, S. flexneri serotype-converting phage SfI which encodes a type I modification of serotype 1 (1a, 1b, 1c and 1d) had not yet been characterized.
The SfI phage was induced and purified from a S. flexneri serotype 1a clinical strain 019. Electron microscopy showed that the SfI phage has a hexagonal head and a long contractile tail, characteristic of the members of Myoviridae family. SfI can convert serotype Y to serotype 1a and serotype X to serotype 1d, but cannot convert 10 other S. flexneri serotypes (1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, Xv) tested, suggesting that SfI has a narrow host range. Similar to other S. flexneri serotype-converting phages, SfI integrates into the tRNA-thrW gene adjacent to proA of the host chromosome when lysogenized. The complete sequence of the SfI genome was 38,389 bp, encoding 66 open reading frames and two tRNA genes. Phage SfI shares significant homology with S. flexneri phage SfV, Escherichia coli prophage e14 and lambda, and is classified into the lambdoid phage family. SfI was found to use a cos mechanism for DNA packaging similar to that of phage SfV.
SfI contains features of lambdoid phages and is closely related to S. flexneri phage SfV, E. coli prophage e14 and lambda. The characterization of SfI enhances our understanding of serotype conversion of S. flexneri.
PMCID: PMC3636060  PMID: 23414301
7.  Enumeration of bacteriophage particles 
Bacteriophage  2011;1(2):86-93.
Bacteriophages are increasingly being utilized and considered for various practical applications, ranging from decontaminating foods and inanimate surfaces to human therapy; therefore, it is important to determine their concentrations quickly and reliably. Traditional plaque assay (PA) is the current “gold standard” for quantitating phage titers. However, it requires at least 18 h before results are obtained, and they may be significantly influenced by various factors. Therefore, two alternative assays based on the quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (QPCR) and NanoSight Limited (NS) technologies were recently proposed for enumerating phage particles. The present study compared the three approaches' abilities to quantitate Listeria monocytogenes-, Escherichia coli O157:H7- and Yersinia pestis-specific lytic phages quickly and reproducibly. The average coefficient of variation (CVS) of the PA method including all three phages was 0.15. The reproducibility of the PA method decreased dramatically when multiple investigators performed the assays, and mean differences of as much as 0.33 log were observed. The QPC R method required costly equipment and the synthesis of phage-specific oligonucleotide primers, but it determined phage concentrations faster (within about 4 h) and more precisely than did PA (CVS = 0.13). NS technology required costly equipment, was less precise (CVS = 0.28) than the PA and QPCR methods, and only worked when the phages were suspended in clear medium. However, it provided results within 5 min. After the overall correlation is established with the PA method, either of the two assays may be useful for quickly and reproducibly determining phage concentrations.
PMCID: PMC3278645  PMID: 22334864
bacteriophage; phage; plaque assays; phage titer
8.  Multilocus Characterization Scheme for Shiga Toxin-Encoding Bacteriophages▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2007;73(24):8032-8040.
Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains are food-borne pathogens whose ability to produce Shiga toxin (Stx) is due to integration of Stx-encoding lambdoid bacteriophages. These Stx phages are both genetically and morphologically heterogeneous, and here we report the design and validation of a PCR-based multilocus typing scheme. PCR primer sets were designed for database variants of a range of key lambdoid bacteriophage genes and applied to control phages and 70 stx+ phage preparations induced from a collection of STEC isolates. The genetic diversity residing within these populations could be described, and observations were made on the heterogeneity of individual gene targets, including the unexpected predominance of short-tailed phages with a highly conserved tail spike protein gene. Purified Stx phages can be profiled using this scheme, and the lambdoid phage-borne genes in induced STEC preparations can be identified as well as those residing in the noninducible prophage complement. The ultimate goal is to enable robust and realistically applicable epidemiological studies of Stx phages and their traits. The impact of Stx phage on STEC epidemiology is currently unknown.
PMCID: PMC2168134  PMID: 17951439
9.  Identification of genes expressed in cultures of E. coli lysogens carrying the Shiga toxin-encoding prophage Φ24B 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:42.
Shigatoxigenic E. coli are a global and emerging health concern. Shiga toxin, Stx, is encoded on the genome of temperate, lambdoid Stx phages. Genes essential for phage maintenance and replication are encoded on approximately 50% of the genome, while most of the remaining genes are of unknown function nor is it known if these annotated hypothetical genes are even expressed. It is hypothesized that many of the latter have been maintained due to positive selection pressure, and that some, expressed in the lysogen host, have a role in pathogenicity. This study used Change Mediated Antigen Technology (CMAT)™ and 2D-PAGE, in combination with RT-qPCR, to identify Stx phage genes that are expressed in E. coli during the lysogenic cycle.
Lysogen cultures propagated for 5-6 hours produced a high cell density with a low proportion of spontaneous prophage induction events. The expression of 26 phage genes was detected in these cultures by differential 2D-PAGE of expressed proteins and CMAT. Detailed analyses of 10 of these genes revealed that three were unequivocally expressed in the lysogen, two expressed from a known lysogenic cycle promoter and one uncoupled from the phage regulatory network.
Propagation of a lysogen culture in which no cells at all are undergoing spontaneous lysis is impossible. To overcome this, RT-qPCR was used to determine gene expression profiles associated with the growth phase of lysogens. This enabled the definitive identification of three lambdoid Stx phage genes that are expressed in the lysogen and seven that are expressed during lysis. Conservation of these genes in this phage genome, and other Stx phages where they have been identified as present, indicates their importance in the phage/lysogen life cycle, with possible implications for the biology and pathogenicity of the bacterial host.
PMCID: PMC3342100  PMID: 22439817
10.  Inhibition of spontaneous induction of lambdoid prophages in Escherichia coli cultures: simple procedures with possible biotechnological applications 
BMC Biotechnology  2001;1:1.
Infections of bacterial cultures by bacteriophages are serious problems in biotechnological laboratories. Apart from such infections, prophage induction in the host cells may also be dangerous. Escherichia coli is a commonly used host in biotechnological production, and many laboratory strains of this bacterium harbour lambdoid prophages. These prophages may be induced under certain conditions leading to phage lytic development. This is fatal for further cultivations as relatively low, though still significant, numbers of phages may be overlooked. Thus, subsequent cultures of non-lysogenic strains may be infected and destroyed by such phage.
Here we report that slow growth of bacteria decreases deleterious effects of spontaneous lambdoid prophage induction. Moreover, replacement of glucose with glycerol in a medium stimulates lysogenic development of the phage after infection of E. coli cells. A plasmid was constructed overexpressing the phage 434 cI gene, coding for the repressor of phage promoters which are necessary for lytic development. Overproduction of the cI repressor abolished spontaneous induction of the λimm434 prophage.
Simple procedures that alleviate problems with spontaneous induction of lambdoid prophage and subsequent infection of E. coli strains by these phages are described. Low bacterial growth rate, replacement of glucose with glycerol in a medium and overproduction of the cI repressor minimise the risk of prophage induction during cultivation of lysogenic bacteria and subsequent infection of other bacterial strains.
PMCID: PMC32160  PMID: 11316465
11.  Temperate Phages Acquire DNA from Defective Prophages by Relaxed Homologous Recombination: The Role of Rad52-Like Recombinases 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(3):e1004181.
Bacteriophages (or phages) dominate the biosphere both numerically and in terms of genetic diversity. In particular, genomic comparisons suggest a remarkable level of horizontal gene transfer among temperate phages, favoring a high evolution rate. Molecular mechanisms of this pervasive mosaicism are mostly unknown. One hypothesis is that phage encoded recombinases are key players in these horizontal transfers, thanks to their high efficiency and low fidelity. Here, we associate two complementary in vivo assays and a bioinformatics analysis to address the role of phage encoded recombinases in genomic mosaicism. The first assay allowed determining the genetic determinants of mosaic formation between lambdoid phages and Escherichia coli prophage remnants. In the second assay, recombination was monitored between sequences on phage λ, and allowed to compare the performance of three different Rad52-like recombinases on the same substrate. We also addressed the importance of homologous recombination in phage evolution by a genomic comparison of 84 E. coli virulent and temperate phages or prophages. We demonstrate that mosaics are mainly generated by homology-driven mechanisms that tolerate high substrate divergence. We show that phage encoded Rad52-like recombinases act independently of RecA, and that they are relatively more efficient when the exchanged fragments are divergent. We also show that accessory phage genes orf and rap contribute to mosaicism. A bioinformatics analysis strengthens our experimental results by showing that homologous recombination left traces in temperate phage genomes at the borders of recently exchanged fragments. We found no evidence of exchanges between virulent and temperate phages of E. coli. Altogether, our results demonstrate that Rad52-like recombinases promote gene shuffling among temperate phages, accelerating their evolution. This mechanism may prove to be more general, as other mobile genetic elements such as ICE encode Rad52-like functions, and play an important role in bacterial evolution itself.
Author Summary
Temperate bacteriophages (or phages) are bacterial viruses that, unlike virulent phages, have the ability to enter a prophage dormant state upon infection, in which they stably replicate with the bacterial genome. A majority of bacterial genomes contain multiple active or defective prophages, and numerous bacterial phenotypes are modified by these prophages, such as increased virulence. These mobile genetic elements are subject to high levels of genetic exchanges, through which new genes are constantly imported into bacterial genomes. Phage-encoded homologous recombination enzymes, or recombinases, are potentially key actors in phage genome shuffling. In this work, we show that gene acquisition in temperate phages is strongly dependent on the presence of sequence homology, but is highly tolerant to divergence. We report that gene exchanges are mainly catalyzed by recombinases found on temperate phages, and show that four different Rad52-like recombinases have a relaxed fidelity in vivo, compared to RecA. This high capacity of exchange speeds up evolution of phages, and indirectly also the evolution of bacteria.
PMCID: PMC3945230  PMID: 24603854
12.  Rapid and Accurate Detection of Bacteriophage Activity against Escherichia coli O157:H7 by Propidium Monoazide Real-Time PCR 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:319351.
Conventional methods to determine the efficacy of bacteriophage (phage) for biocontrol of E. coli require several days, due to the need to culture bacteria. Furthermore, cell surface-attached phage particles may lyse bacterial cells during experiments, leading to an overestimation of phage activity. DNA-based real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) is a fast, sensitive, and highly specific means of enumerating pathogens. However, qPCR may underestimate phage activity due to its inability to distinguish viable from nonviable cells. In this study, we evaluated the suitability of propidium monoazide (PMA), a microbial membrane-impermeable dye that inhibits amplification of extracellular DNA and DNA within dead or membrane-compromised cells as a means of using qPCR to identify only intact E. coli cells that survive phage exposure. Escherichia coli O157:H7 strain R508N and 4 phages (T5-like, T1-like, T4-like, and O1-like) were studied. Results compared PMA-qPCR and direct plating and confirmed that PMA could successfully inhibit amplification of DNA from compromised/damaged cells E. coli O157:H7. Compared to PMA-qPCR, direct plating overestimated (P < 0.01) phage efficacy as cell surface-attached phage particles lysed E. coli O157:H7 during the plating process. Treatment of samples with PMA in combination with qPCR can therefore be considered beneficial when assessing the efficacy of bacteriophage for biocontrol of E. coli O157:H7.
PMCID: PMC4233675  PMID: 25530959
13.  Characterization of the cryptic lambdoid prophage DLP12 of Escherichia coli and overlap of the DLP12 integrase gene with the tRNA gene argU. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1989;171(11):6197-6205.
The argU (dnaY) gene of Escherichia coli is located, in clockwise orientation, at 577.5 kilobases (kb) on the chromosome physical map. There was a cryptic prophage spanning the 2 kb immediately downstream of argU that consisted of sequences similar to the phage P22 int gene, a portion of the P22 xis gene, and portions of the exo, P, and ren genes of bacteriophage lambda. This cryptic prophage was designated DLP12, for defective lambdoid prophage at 12 min. Immediately clockwise of DLP12 was the IS3 alpha 4 beta 4 insertion element. The argU and DLP12 int genes overlapped at their 3' ends, and argU contained sequence homologous to a portion of the phage P22 attP site. Additional homologies to lambdoid phages were found in the 25 kb clockwise of argU. These included the cryptic prophage qsr' (P. J. Highton, Y. Chang, W. R. Marcotte, Jr., and C. A. Schnaitman, J. Bacteriol. 162:256-262, 1985), a sequence homologous to a portion of lambda orf-194, and an attR homolog. Inasmuch as the DLP12 att int xis exo P/ren region, the qsr' region, and homologs of orf-194 and attR were arranged in the same order and orientation as the lambdoid prophage counterparts, we propose that the designation DLP12 be applied to all these sequences. This organization of the DLP12 sequences and the presence of the argU/DLP12 int pair in several E. coli strains and closely related species suggest that DLP12 might be an ancestral lambdoid prophage. Moreover, the presence of similar sequences at the junctions of DLP12 segments and their phage counterparts suggests that a common mechanism could have transferred these DLP12 segments to more recent phages.
PMCID: PMC210489  PMID: 2553674
14.  Bacteriophage Crosstalk: Coordination of Prophage Induction by Trans-Acting Antirepressors 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(6):e1002149.
Many species of bacteria harbor multiple prophages in their genomes. Prophages often carry genes that confer a selective advantage to the bacterium, typically during host colonization. Prophages can convert to infectious viruses through a process known as induction, which is relevant to the spread of bacterial virulence genes. The paradigm of prophage induction, as set by the phage Lambda model, sees the process initiated by the RecA-stimulated self-proteolysis of the phage repressor. Here we show that a large family of lambdoid prophages found in Salmonella genomes employs an alternative induction strategy. The repressors of these phages are not cleaved upon induction; rather, they are inactivated by the binding of small antirepressor proteins. Formation of the complex causes the repressor to dissociate from DNA. The antirepressor genes lie outside the immunity region and are under direct control of the LexA repressor, thus plugging prophage induction directly into the SOS response. GfoA and GfhA, the antirepressors of Salmonella prophages Gifsy-1 and Gifsy-3, each target both of these phages' repressors, GfoR and GfhR, even though the latter proteins recognize different operator sites and the two phages are heteroimmune. In contrast, the Gifsy-2 phage repressor, GtgR, is insensitive to GfoA and GfhA, but is inactivated by an antirepressor from the unrelated Fels-1 prophage (FsoA). This response is all the more surprising as FsoA is under the control of the Fels-1 repressor, not LexA, and plays no apparent role in Fels-1 induction, which occurs via a Lambda CI-like repressor cleavage mechanism. The ability of antirepressors to recognize non-cognate repressors allows coordination of induction of multiple prophages in polylysogenic strains. Identification of non-cleavable gfoR/gtgR homologues in a large variety of bacterial genomes (including most Escherichia coli genomes in the DNA database) suggests that antirepression-mediated induction is far more common than previously recognized.
Author Summary
Many viruses that infect bacteria (bacteriophages) can direct the integration of their DNA into the bacterial chromosome. This condition, known as lysogeny, is relevant to bacterial evolution, as it is one of the main pathways leading to the incorporation of foreign DNA in nature. Indeed, bacteriophages often carry genes that escape lysogenic repression and benefit the bacterium. This symbiotic association can come to an end if bacteria suffer DNA damage. A mechanism mediated by the host's RecA protein causes the relief of repression, viral DNA excision, and replication. This process, known as prophage induction, kills the host and results in the release of viral particles. In this work, we have analyzed the mechanism responsible for induction in a large family of prophages naturally present in the genomes of Salmonella bacteria. We found that, unlike in best-studied model phages, the repressors of these Salmonella phages do not undergo RecA-mediated proteolysis; rather, they are inactivated by the binding of small antirepressor proteins. We show that some antirepressors can act on both cognate and non-cognate repressors, allowing separate prophages within a given strain to be induced simultaneously. We discuss evidence suggesting that antirepressor-mediated prophage induction is quite common in the bacterial world.
PMCID: PMC3121763  PMID: 21731505
15.  ppGpp-Dependent Negative Control of DNA Replication of Shiga Toxin-Converting Bacteriophages in Escherichia coli 
Journal of Bacteriology  2013;195(22):5007-5015.
The pathogenicity of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) strains depends on the production of Shiga toxins that are encoded on lambdoid prophages. Effective production of these toxins requires prophage induction and subsequent phage replication. Previous reports indicated that lytic development of Shiga toxin-converting bacteriophages is inhibited in amino acid-starved bacteria. However, those studies demonstrated that inhibition of both phage-derived plasmid replication and production of progeny virions occurred during the stringent as well as the relaxed response to amino acid starvation, i.e., in the presence as well as the absence of high levels of ppGpp, an alarmone of the stringent response. Therefore, we asked whether ppGpp influences DNA replication and lytic development of Shiga toxin-converting bacteriophages. Lytic development of 5 such bacteriophages was tested in an E. coli wild-type strain and an isogenic mutant that does not produce ppGpp (ppGpp0). In the absence of ppGpp, production of progeny phages was significantly (in the range of an order of magnitude) more efficient than in wild-type cells. Such effects were observed in infected bacteria as well as after prophage induction. All tested bacteriophages formed considerably larger plaques on lawns formed by ppGpp0 bacteria than on those formed by wild-type E. coli. The efficiency of synthesis of phage DNA and relative amount of lambdoid plasmid DNA were increased in cells devoid of ppGpp relative to bacteria containing a basal level of this nucleotide. We conclude that ppGpp negatively influences the lytic development of Shiga toxin-converting bacteriophages and that phage DNA replication efficiency is limited by the stringent control alarmone.
PMCID: PMC3811577  PMID: 23995636
16.  The CI Repressors of Shiga Toxin-Converting Prophages Are Involved in Coinfection of Escherichia coli Strains, Which Causes a Down Regulation in the Production of Shiga Toxin 2▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;190(13):4722-4735.
Shiga toxins (Stx) are the main virulence factors associated with a form of Escherichia coli known as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). They are encoded in temperate lambdoid phages located on the chromosome of STEC. STEC strains can carry more than one prophage. Consequently, toxin and phage production might be influenced by the presence of more than one Stx prophage on the bacterial chromosome. To examine the effect of the number of prophages on Stx production, we produced E. coli K-12 strains carrying either one Stx2 prophage or two different Stx2 prophages. We used recombinant phages in which an antibiotic resistance gene (aph, cat, or tet) was incorporated in the middle of the Shiga toxin operon. Shiga toxin was quantified by immunoassay and by cytotoxicity assay on Vero cells (50% cytotoxic dose). When two prophages were inserted in the host chromosome, Shiga toxin production and the rate of lytic cycle activation fell. The cI repressor seems to be involved in incorporation of the second prophage. Incorporation and establishment of the lysogenic state of the two prophages, which lowers toxin production, could be regulated by the CI repressors of both prophages operating in trans. Although the sequences of the cI genes of the phages studied differed, the CI protein conformation was conserved. Results indicate that the presence of more than one prophage in the host chromosome could be regarded as a mechanism to allow genetic retention in the cell, by reducing the activation of lytic cycle and hence the pathogenicity of the strains.
PMCID: PMC2446792  PMID: 18469095
17.  Comparative genomics of Shiga toxin encoding bacteriophages 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:311.
Stx bacteriophages are responsible for driving the dissemination of Stx toxin genes (stx) across their bacterial host range. Lysogens carrying Stx phages can cause severe, life-threatening disease and Stx toxin is an integral virulence factor. The Stx-bacteriophage vB_EcoP-24B, commonly referred to as Ф24B, is capable of multiply infecting a single bacterial host cell at a high frequency, with secondary infection increasing the rate at which subsequent bacteriophage infections can occur. This is biologically unusual, therefore determining the genomic content and context of Ф24B compared to other lambdoid Stx phages is important to understanding the factors controlling this phenomenon and determining whether they occur in other Stx phages.
The genome of the Stx2 encoding phage, Ф24B was sequenced and annotated. The genomic organisation and general features are similar to other sequenced Stx bacteriophages induced from Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC), however Ф24B possesses significant regions of heterogeneity, with implications for phage biology and behaviour. The Ф24B genome was compared to other sequenced Stx phages and the archetypal lambdoid phage, lambda, using the Circos genome comparison tool and a PCR-based multi-loci comparison system.
The data support the hypothesis that Stx phages are mosaic, and recombination events between the host, phages and their remnants within the same infected bacterial cell will continue to drive the evolution of Stx phage variants and the subsequent dissemination of shigatoxigenic potential.
PMCID: PMC3430580  PMID: 22799768
18.  Rapid and Sensitive Detection of Yersinia pestis Using Amplification of Plague Diagnostic Bacteriophages Monitored by Real-Time PCR 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(6):e11337.
Yersinia pestis, the agent of plague, has caused many millions of human deaths and still poses a serious threat to global public health. Timely and reliable detection of such a dangerous pathogen is of critical importance. Lysis by specific bacteriophages remains an essential method of Y. pestis detection and plague diagnostics.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The objective of this work was to develop an alternative to conventional phage lysis tests – a rapid and highly sensitive method of indirect detection of live Y. pestis cells based on quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) monitoring of amplification of reporter Y. pestis-specific bacteriophages. Plague diagnostic phages ϕA1122 and L-413C were shown to be highly effective diagnostic tools for the detection and identification of Y. pestis by using qPCR with primers specific for phage DNA. The template DNA extraction step that usually precedes qPCR was omitted. ϕA1122-specific qPCR enabled the detection of an initial bacterial concentration of 103 CFU/ml (equivalent to as few as one Y. pestis cell per 1-µl sample) in four hours. L-413C-mediated detection of Y. pestis was less sensitive (up to 100 bacteria per sample) but more specific, and thus we propose parallel qPCR for the two phages as a rapid and reliable method of Y. pestis identification. Importantly, ϕA1122 propagated in simulated clinical blood specimens containing EDTA and its titer rise was detected by both a standard plating test and qPCR.
Thus, we developed a novel assay for detection and identification of Y. pestis using amplification of specific phages monitored by qPCR. The method is simple, rapid, highly sensitive, and specific and allows the detection of only live bacteria.
PMCID: PMC2893161  PMID: 20596528
19.  Type III Restriction Is Alleviated by Bacteriophage (RecE) Homologous Recombination Function but Enhanced by Bacterial (RecBCD) Function 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(21):7362-7373.
Previous works have demonstrated that DNA breaks generated by restriction enzymes stimulate, and are repaired by, homologous recombination with an intact, homologous DNA region through the function of lambdoid bacteriophages lambda and Rac. In the present work, we examined the effect of bacteriophage functions, expressed in bacterial cells, on restriction of an infecting tester phage in a simple plaque formation assay. The efficiency of plaque formation on an Escherichia coli host carrying EcoRI, a type II restriction system, is not increased by the presence of Rac prophage—presumably because, under the single-infection conditions of the plaque assay, a broken phage DNA cannot find a homologue with which to recombine. To our surprise, however, we found that the efficiency of plaque formation in the presence of a type III restriction system, EcoP1 or EcoP15, is increased by the bacteriophage-mediated homologous recombination functions recE and recT of Rac prophage. This type III restriction alleviation does not depend on lar on Rac, unlike type I restriction alleviation. On the other hand, bacterial RecBCD-homologous recombination function enhances type III restriction. These results led us to hypothesize that the action of type III restriction enzymes takes place on replicated or replicating DNA in vivo and leaves daughter DNAs with breaks at nonallelic sites, that bacteriophage-mediated homologous recombination reconstitutes an intact DNA from them, and that RecBCD exonuclease blocks this repair by degradation from the restriction breaks.
PMCID: PMC1272966  PMID: 16237019
20.  Insertion of bacteriophage lambda into the deo operon of Escherichia coli K-12 and isolation of plaque-forming lambdadeo+ transducing bacteriophages. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1978;136(2):668-681.
A procedure has been devised to isolate plaque-forming lambda cI857S7 transducing bacteriophage which carry the internal promoter, P3, of the deo operon of Escherichia coli and the deoB and deoD genes, while lacking the deoP and cytP promoters of the same operon, in order to study, specifically, regulation at the P3 site. This has been accomplished by selecting for the insertion of bacteriophage lambda into the deoA gene in a strain deleted for the normal lambda attachment site (delta att lambda) and isolating from this lysogen lambda spi- and lambda EDTAr phage. Among these, lambda pdeoB+D+ phage were identified by their transducing abilities. From in vivo enzyme induction experiments performed on a delta deo strain lysogenized with such phage, they were shown to carry the P3 promoter while lacking the deoP and cytP promoters. A lambdapdeo B+D+ phage phage was used to lysogenize a deo+ delta att lambda strain, integration of lambda occurring within the region of homology, and, from a heat-induced lysate of this strain, a plaque-forming lambda+ phage carrying the complete deo operon was obtained. Phage lambda was also inserted into the deoB and deoD genes and into the tdk gene. By isolating lambdaspi- and lambdaEDTAr phage from the deo::(lambda) mutants and determining which bacterial genes they carried and whether they retained the int gene of lambda, it was found that lambda had inserted into deoD with the same orientation as lambda inserted into attlambda, whereas lambda inserted into deoA and deoB had the opposite orientation. Deletions extending from the site of lambda insertion into the bacterial chromosome were isolated by selecting for heat-resistant revertants. These confirmed the order of markers to be deo-serB-trpR-thr and also placed a locus, msp, determining sensitivity or resistance of male strains to male-specific phages, between trpR and thr. For some reason unknown, but which may be related to the orientation of the lambda prophages, short deletions rendering the bacterium Ser- Thr+ were of much lower frequency from the deoD::(lambda) lysogen than from the other two lysogens. From an examination of the residual deoD enzyme levels in deoB::(lambda) mutants, it was deduced that there may be two promoter sites within the deoB::(lambda) mutants, it was deduced that there may be two promoter sites within the deoB gene, transcription from one of these being sufficient to account for the noncoordinate nature of the induction of deoB and deoD gene products.
PMCID: PMC218592  PMID: 361716
21.  Genome of Enterobacteriophage Lula/phi80 and Insights into Its Ability To Spread in the Laboratory Environment 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(24):6802-6817.
The novel temperate bacteriophage Lula, contaminating laboratory Escherichia coli strains, turned out to be the well-known lambdoid phage phi80. Our previous studies revealed that two characteristics of Lula/phi80 facilitate its spread in the laboratory environment: cryptic lysogen productivity and stealthy infectivity. To understand the genetics/genomics behind these traits, we sequenced and annotated the Lula/phi80 genome, encountering an E. coli-toxic gene revealed as a gap in the sequencing contig and analyzing a few genes in more detail. Lula/phi80's genome layout copies that of lambda, yet homology with other lambdoid phages is mostly limited to the capsid genes. Lula/phi80's DNA is resistant to cutting with several restriction enzymes, suggesting DNA modification, but deletion of the phage's damL gene, coding for DNA adenine methylase, did not make DNA cuttable. The damL mutation of Lula/phi80 also did not change the phage titer in lysogen cultures, whereas the host dam mutation did increase it almost 100-fold. Since the high phage titer in cultures of Lula/phi80 lysogens is apparently in response to endogenous DNA damage, we deleted the only Lula/phi80 SOS-controlled gene, dinL. We found that dinL mutant lysogens release fewer phage in response to endogenous DNA damage but are unchanged in their response to external DNA damage. The toxic gene of Lula/phi80, gamL, encodes an inhibitor of the host ATP-dependent exonucleases, RecBCD and SbcCD. Its own antidote, agt, apparently encoding a modifier protein, was found nearby. Interestingly, Lula/phi80 lysogens are recD and sbcCD phenocopies, so GamL and Agt are part of lysogenic conversion.
PMCID: PMC3510586  PMID: 23042999
22.  Immunity Profiles of Wild-Type and Recombinant Shiga-Like Toxin-Encoding Bacteriophages and Characterization of Novel Double Lysogens  
Infection and Immunity  2003;71(6):3409-3418.
The pathogenicity of Shiga-like toxin (stx)-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), notably serotype O157, the causative agent of hemorrhagic colitis, hemolytic-uremic syndrome, and thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, is based partly on the presence of genes (stx1 and/or stx2) that are known to be carried on temperate lambdoid bacteriophages. Stx phages were isolated from different STEC strains and found to have genome sizes in the range of 48 to 62 kb and to carry either stx1 or stx2 genes. Restriction fragment length polymorphism patterns and sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis protein profiles were relatively uninformative, but the phages could be differentiated according to their immunity profiles. Furthermore, these were sufficiently sensitive to enable the identification and differentiation of two different phages, both carrying the genes for Stx2 and originating from the same STEC host strain. The immunity profiles of the different Stx phages did not conform to the model established for bacteriophage lambda, in that the pattern of individual Stx phage infection of various lysogens was neither expected nor predicted. Unexpected differences were also observed among Stx phages in their relative lytic productivity within a single host. Two antibiotic resistance markers were used to tag a recombinant phage in which the stx genes were inactivated, enabling the first reported observation of the simultaneous infection of a single host with two genetically identical Stx phages. The data demonstrate that, although Stx phages are members of the lambdoid family, their replication and infection control strategies are not necessarily identical to the archetypical bacteriophage λ, and this could be responsible for the widespread occurrence of stx genes across a diverse range of E. coli serotypes.
PMCID: PMC155745  PMID: 12761125
23.  Single-cell and population level viral infection dynamics revealed by phageFISH, a method to visualize intracellular and free viruses 
Environmental Microbiology  2013;15(8):2306-2318.
Microbes drive the biogeochemical cycles that fuel planet Earth, and their viruses (phages) alter microbial population structure, genome repertoire, and metabolic capacity. However, our ability to understand and quantify phage–host interactions is technique-limited. Here, we introduce phageFISH – a markedly improved geneFISH protocol that increases gene detection efficiency from 40% to > 92% and is optimized for detection and visualization of intra- and extracellular phage DNA. The application of phageFISH to characterize infection dynamics in a marine podovirus–gammaproteobacterial host model system corroborated classical metrics (qPCR, plaque assay, FVIC, DAPI) and outperformed most of them to reveal new biology. PhageFISH detected both replicating and encapsidated (intracellular and extracellular) phage DNA, while simultaneously identifying and quantifying host cells during all stages of infection. Additionally, phageFISH allowed per-cell relative measurements of phage DNA, enabling single-cell documentation of infection status (e.g. early vs late stage infections). Further, it discriminated between two waves of infection, which no other measurement could due to population-averaged signals. Together, these findings richly characterize the infection dynamics of a novel model phage–host system, and debut phageFISH as a much-needed tool for studying phage–host interactions in the laboratory, with great promise for environmental surveys and lineage-specific population ecology of free phages.
PMCID: PMC3884771  PMID: 23489642
24.  The Operator and Early Promoter Region of the Shiga Toxin Type 2-Encoding Bacteriophage 933W and Control of Toxin Expression 
Journal of Bacteriology  2004;186(22):7670-7679.
The genes encoding Shiga toxin (Stx), the major virulence factor of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, are carried in the genomes of bacteriophages that belong to the lambdoid family of phages. Previous studies demonstrated that induction of prophages encoding stx significantly enhances the production and/or release of Stx from the bacterium. Therefore, factors that regulate the switch between lysogeny and lytic growth, e.g., repressor, operator sites, and associated phage promoters, play important roles in regulating the production and/or release of Stx. We report the results of genetic and biochemical studies characterizing these elements of the Stx-encoding bacteriophage 933W. Like λ, 933W has three operator repeats in the right operator region (OR), but unlike λ and all other studied lambdoid phages, which have three operator repeats in the left operator region (OL), 933W only has two operator repeats in OL. As was observed with λ, the 933W OR and OL regions regulate transcription from the early PR and PL promoters, respectively. A lysogen carrying a 933W derivative encoding a noncleavable repressor fails to produce Stx, unlike a lysogen carrying a 933W derivative encoding a cleavable repressor. This finding provides direct evidence that measurable expression of the stx genes encoded by a 933W prophage requires induction of that prophage with the concomitant initiation of phage gene expression.
PMCID: PMC524894  PMID: 15516581
25.  Lytic Replication of Coliphage Lambda in Salmonella typhosa Hybrids 
Journal of Bacteriology  1972;110(3):1022-1031.
Hybrids between Escherichia coli K-12 and Salmonella typhosa which conserved a continuous K-12 chromosomal diploid segment extending from pro through ara to the strA locus were sensitive to plaque formation by wild-type λ. These partially diploid S. typhosa hybrids could be lysogenized with λ and subsequently induced to produce infectious phage particles. When the K-12 genes were segregated from a lysogenic S. typhosa hybrid, phage-productive ability was no longer detectable due to loss of a genetic region necessary for vegetative replication of λ. However, λ prophage was shown to persist in a quiescent state in the S. typhosa hybrid segregant with phage-productive ability being reactivated after replacement of the essential K-12 λ replication region. Low-frequency transduction and high-frequency transduction lysates containing the gal+ genes of S. typhosa were prepared by induction of λ-lysogenic S. typhosa hybrids indicating that the attλ site is chromosomally located in S. typhosa in close proximity to the gal locus as in E. coli K-12. After propagation in S. typhosa hybrids, λ was subject to restriction by E. coli K-12 recipients, thus establishing that S. typhosa does not perform the K-12 modification of λ deoxyribonucleic acid. Hybrids of S. typhosa, however, did not restrict λ grown previously on E. coli K-12. The K-12 genetic region required for λ phage production in S. typhosa was located within min 66 to min 72 on the genetic map of the E. coli chromosome. Transfer of an F-merogenote encompassing the 66 to 72 min E. coli chromosomal region to λ-insensitive S. typhosa hybrids enabled them to replicate wild-type λ. The λ-insensitive S. typhosa hybrid, WR4255, which blocks λ replication, can be mutagenized to yield mutant strains sensitive to λvir and λimm434. These WR4255 mutants remained insensitive to plaque formation by wild-type λ.
PMCID: PMC247524  PMID: 4555401

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