Superinfection of Corynebacterium diphtheriae C7(beta) by heteroimmune phage gamma is productive, whereas superinfection by gamma-bin mutants is for the most part nonproductive. Exclusion of gamma-bin phage occurred after its DNA had penetrated and was partially expressed in the heteroimmune lysogen. All of the infected cells were killed, and lysis was observed. The beta inhibitor causing exclusion was produced during the prophage state and appeared to be distinct from immune repressor. The ability of gamma-bin phage to superinfect C7(beta) productively could be restored by recombination with beta phage, indicating that both beta and gamma phages contain either indentical or similar alleles of the bin gene. The bin gene was mapped by vegetative and prophage crosses and found to be located in the region of the phage genome concerned with regulation. Both beta and gamma wild-type phages induced the resident prophage in a significant fraction of superinfeted heteroimmune lysogens. This, coupled with the fact that induction of C7(beta) abolished exclusion, suggests that the bin gene product acts as antirepressor, i.e., it reduces the level of heteroimmune repressor either directly or indirectly. The gamma-bin mutants either failed to produce antirepressor or did so with reduced efficiency. Antirepressor activity was negatively controlled by homoimmune repressor. The isolation of beta mutants that appeared bin-like suggests that beta and gamma phages contain homologous systems of exclusion and antiexclusion. Exclusion of gamm-bin by beta phage in gram-positive C. diphtheriae exhibited striking parallels to the sieB exclusion described for phages P22 and lambda in gram-negative organisms. The extended similarities of these coryngephages to lambda bacteriophage is noted.
The amount and distribution of variation in the genomic region containing the genes in the lytic-lysogenic genetic switch and the sequence that determines the integration site into the host chromosome were analyzed for 38 P2-like phages from Escherichia coli. The genetic switch consists of two convergent mutually exclusive promoters, Pe and Pc, and two repressors, C and Cox. The immunity repressor C blocks the early Pe promoter, leading to the establishment of lysogeny. The Cox repressor blocks expression of Pc, allowing lytic growth. Phylogenetic analyses showed that the C and Cox proteins were distributed into seven distinct classes. The phylogenetic relationship differed between the two proteins, and we showed that homologous recombination plays a major role in creating alterations in the genetic switch, leading to new immunity classes. Analyses of the host integration site for these phages resulted in the discovery of a previously unknown site, and there were at least four regular integration sites. Interestingly, we found no case where phages of the same immunity class had different host attachment sites. The evolution of immunity and integration sites is complex, since it involves interactions both between the phages themselves and between phages and hosts, and often, both regulatory proteins and target DNA must change.
Xylella fastidiosa is a Gram negative plant pathogen causing many economically important diseases, and analyses of completely sequenced X. fastidiosa genome strains allowed the identification of many prophage-like elements and possibly phage remnants, accounting for up to 15% of the genome composition. To better evaluate the recent evolution of the X. fastidiosa chromosome backbone among distinct pathovars, the number and location of prophage-like regions on two finished genomes (9a5c and Temecula1), and in two candidate molecules (Ann1 and Dixon) were assessed. Based on comparative best bidirectional hit analyses, the majority (51%) of the predicted genes in the X. fastidiosa prophage-like regions are related to structural phage genes belonging to the Siphoviridae family. Electron micrograph reveals the existence of putative viral particles with similar morphology to lambda phages in the bacterial cell in planta. Moreover, analysis of microarray data indicates that 9a5c strain cultivated under stress conditions presents enhanced expression of phage anti-repressor genes, suggesting switches from lysogenic to lytic cycle of phages under stress-induced situations. Furthermore, virulence-associated proteins and toxins are found within these prophage-like elements, thus suggesting an important role in host adaptation. Finally, clustering analyses of phage integrase genes based on multiple alignment patterns reveal they group in five lineages, all possessing a tyrosine recombinase catalytic domain, and phylogenetically close to other integrases found in phages that are genetic mosaics and able to perform generalized and specialized transduction. Integration sites and tRNA association is also evidenced. In summary, we present comparative and experimental evidence supporting the association and contribution of phage activity on the differentiation of Xylella genomes.
Phages are a primary driving force behind the evolution of bacterial pathogens by transferring a variety of virulence genes into their hosts. Similar to other bacterial genomes, the Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis LK5 genome contains several regions that are homologous to phages. Although genomic analysis demonstrated the presence of prophages, it was unable to confirm which phage elements within the genome were viable. Genetic markers were used to tag one of the prophages in the genome to allow monitoring of phage induction. Commonly used laboratory strains of Salmonella were resistant to phage infection, and therefore a rapid screen was developed to identify susceptible hosts. This approach showed that a genetically tagged prophage, ELPhiS (Enteritidis lysogenic phage S), was capable of infecting Salmonella serovars that are diverse in host range and virulence and has the potential to laterally transfer genes between these serovars via lysogenic conversion. The rapid screen approach is adaptable to any system with a large collection of isolates and may be used to test the viability of prophages found by sequencing the genomes of various bacterial pathogens.
The Bacillus thuringiensis temperate phage GIL01 does not integrate into the host chromosome but exists stably as an independent linear replicon within the cell. Similar to that of the lambdoid prophages, the lytic cycle of GIL01 is induced as part of the cellular SOS response to DNA damage. However, no CI-like maintenance repressor has been detected in the phage genome, suggesting that GIL01 uses a novel mechanism to maintain lysogeny. To gain insights into the GIL01 regulatory circuit, we isolated and characterized a set of 17 clear plaque (cp) mutants that are unable to lysogenize. Two phage-encoded proteins, gp1 and gp7, are required for stable lysogen formation. Analysis of cp mutants also identified a 14-bp palindromic dinBox1 sequence within the P1-P2 promoter region that resembles the known LexA-binding site of Gram-positive bacteria. Mutations at conserved positions in dinBox1 result in a cp phenotype. Genomic analysis identified a total of three dinBox sites within GIL01 promoter regions. To investigate the possibility that the host LexA regulates GIL01, phage induction was measured in a host carrying a noncleavable lexA (Ind−) mutation. GIL01 formed stable lysogens in this host, but lytic growth could not be induced by treatment with mitomycin C. Also, mitomycin C induced β-galactosidase expression from GIL01-lacZ promoter fusions, and induction was similarly blocked in the lexA (Ind−) mutant host. These data support a model in which host LexA binds to dinBox sequences in GIL01, repressing phage gene expression during lysogeny and providing the switch necessary to enter lytic development.
The complete genome sequences of two dairy phages, Streptococcus thermophilus phage 7201 and Lactobacillus casei phage A2, are reported. Comparative genomics reveals that both phages are members of the recently proposed Sfi21-like genus of Siphoviridae, a widely distributed phage type in low-GC-content gram-positive bacteria. Graded relatedness, the hallmark of evolving biological systems, was observed when different Sfi21-like phages were compared. Across the structural module, the graded relatedness was represented by a high level of DNA sequence similarity or protein sequence similarity, or a shared gene map in the absence of sequence relatedness. This varying range of relatedness was found within Sfi21-like phages from a single species as demonstrated by the different prophages harbored by Lactococcus lactis strain IL1403. A systematic dot plot analysis with 11 complete L. lactis phage genome sequences revealed a clear separation of all temperate phages from two classes of virulent phages. The temperate lactococcal phages share DNA sequence homology in a patchwise fashion over the nonstructural gene cluster. With respect to structural genes, four DNA homology groups could be defined within temperate L. lactis phages. Closely related structural modules for all four DNA homology groups were detected in phages from Streptococcus or Listeria, suggesting that they represent distinct evolutionary lineages that have not uniquely evolved in L. lactis. It seems reasonable to base phage taxonomy on data from comparative genomics. However, the peculiar modular nature of phage evolution creates ambiguities in the definition of phage taxa by comparative genomics. For example, depending on the module on which the classification is based, temperate lactococcal phages can be classified as a single phage species, as four distinct phage species, or as two if not three different phage genera. We propose to base phage taxonomy on comparative genomics of a single structural gene module (head or tail genes). This partially phylogeny-based taxonomical system still mirrors some aspects of the current International Committee on Taxonomy in Virology classification system. In this system the currently sequenced lactococcal phages would be grouped into five genera: c2-, sk1, Sfi11-, r1t-, and Sfi21-like phages.
Based on molecular information theory, 10 T7-like promoter models were built for the T7 group of phages and used to scan their host genomes and closely related genomes. 38 genomes were scanned and 12 clusters of tandem promoters were identified in nine enteropathogens. Comparative analysis of these tandem promoter-bearing regions reveals that they are similar to each other, forming prophage-like islands of 4–13 kb. Each island appears to contain two or three tandem T7-like promoters within a stretch of 150–620 bases, but there are no corresponding RNA polymerase (RNAP) genes. The promoters would transcribe two to five putative phage-related proteins, but none of these resemble known phage structural proteins. An integrase belonging to the Int family of site-specific recombinases is encoded upstream of the tandem promoters. A direct repeat of 17–24 bases was found on the ends of all 12 islands. Comparative analysis of the islands shows that these islands appear to have recombined with each other. These results suggest that the islands could encode a group of satellite phages. Activation and function of the islands may depend on transcription by a T7-like RNAP after infection by a T7-like phage or foreign DNA that encodes a T7-like RNAP.
A phage moron is a DNA element inserted between a pair of genes in one phage genome that are adjacent in other related phage genomes. Phage morons are commonly found within phage genomes, and in a number of cases, they have been shown to mediate phenotypic changes in the bacterial host. The temperate phage HK97 encodes a moron element, gp15, within its tail morphogenesis region that is absent in most closely related phages. We show that gp15 is actively expressed from the HK97 prophage and is responsible for providing the host cell with resistance to infection by phages HK97 and HK75, independent of repressor immunity. To identify the target(s) of this gp15-mediated resistance, we created a hybrid of HK97 and the related phage HK022. This hybrid phage revealed that the tail tube or tape measure proteins likely mediate the susceptibility of HK97 to inhibition by gp15. The N terminus of gp15 is predicted with high probability to contain a single membrane-spanning helix by several transmembrane prediction programs. Consistent with this putative membrane localization, gp15 acts to prevent the entry of phage DNA into the cytoplasm, acting in a manner reminiscent of those of several previously characterized superinfection exclusion proteins. The N terminus of gp15 and its phage homologues bear sequence similarity to YebO proteins, a family of proteins of unknown function found ubiquitously in enterobacteria. The divergence of their C termini suggests that phages have co-opted this bacterial protein and subverted its activity to their advantage.
A lysogen of a wild-type strain of Escherichia coli K-12 carrying a heat-inducible lambda-phi80 hybrid prophage was induced to yield transducing phages carrying all of the structural genes of the tryptophan operon. The presence or absence of elements of the trp regulatory region was determined by examining the effects of lambda genes N and cI on trp gene expression. The phages were further characterized by transduction studies and by examining anthranilate synthetase (EC 188.8.131.52) (TRYPE+D) synthesis in the presence of the lambda cI product. A number of phages deleted for the trp promoter were found. Recombination studies between trpOc bacteria and the transducing phages have yielded information that can be used to order the trp end points of some phages and to provide an estimate of the size of the trp promoter region.
Infection of Escherichia coli by bacteriophage D108 was shown to result in the generation of apparently random chromosomal mutations. Approximately 1% of the cells lysogenized by D108, as with Mu, acquired new auxotrophic mutations. D108-induced mutations were nonreverting and were most probably the result of insertion of the D108 genome into regions of genetic function. D108 and Mu shared many similar properties but were heteroimmune and had different host ranges. Lytic infections of Mu lysogens with D108 and D108 lysogens with Mu resulted in 100-fold increases in release of phage with prophage markers over those due to spontaneous induction. Phenotypic mixing was common, with most phage carrying the prophage immunity being packaged in particles with the host range of the superinfecting phage. A fraction of the superinfecting phage genomes were, however, packaged in particles with the prophage-specified host range. Although 10% of the prophage progeny were D108-Mu genetic hybrids, superinfecting phage-induced release of the prophage with reciprocal phenotypic mixing occurred in recA hosts, in which the frequency of D108-Mu genetic hybrids was reduced 100-fold.
Temperate phages have the ability to maintain their genome in their host, a process called lysogeny. For most, passive replication of the phage genome relies on integration into the host's chromosome and becoming a prophage. Prophages remain silent in the absence of stress and replicate passively within their host genome. However, when stressful conditions occur, a prophage excises itself and resumes the viral cycle. Integration and excision of phage genomes are mediated by regulated site-specific recombination catalyzed by tyrosine and serine recombinases. In the KplE1 prophage, site-specific recombination is mediated by the IntS integrase and the TorI recombination directionality factor (RDF). We previously described a sub-family of temperate phages that is characterized by an unusual organization of the recombination module. Consequently, the attL recombination region overlaps with the integrase promoter, and the integrase and RDF genes do not share a common activated promoter upon lytic induction as in the lambda prophage. In this study, we show that the intS gene is tightly regulated by its own product as well as by the TorI RDF protein. In silico analysis revealed that overlap of the attL region with the integrase promoter is widely encountered in prophages present in prokaryotic genomes, suggesting a general occurrence of negatively autoregulated integrase genes. The prediction that these integrase genes are negatively autoregulated was biologically assessed by studying the regulation of several integrase genes from two different Escherichia coli strains. Our results suggest that the majority of tRNA-associated integrase genes in prokaryotic genomes could be autoregulated and that this might be correlated with the recombination efficiency as in KplE1. The consequences of this unprecedented regulation for excisive recombination are discussed.
Temperate bacteriophages are widespread bacterial viruses that have the ability to replicate passively in their hosts as long as no stressful conditions are encountered, a process called lysogeny. Prophage-encoded genes may benefit the host in several ways such as providing resistance to antibiotics, increased pathogenicity, or increased fitness. Most temperate phages insert their genome into the host's chromosome by site-specific recombination. After prophage induction, usually under stressful conditions, the excisive recombination constitutes a key step toward productive phage development. In this paper, we study the regulation of integrase genes that encode the enzyme required for integrative as well as excisive recombination. We noticed that for prophages inserted in or near tRNA genes the orientation of the integrase gene relative to the tRNA is crucial for its regulation.
The relationship between phage and their microbial hosts is difficult to elucidate in complex natural ecosystems. Engineered systems performing enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR), offer stable, lower complexity communities for studying phage-host interactions. Here, metagenomic data from an EBPR reactor dominated by Candidatus Accumulibacter phosphatis (CAP), led to the recovery of three complete and six partial phage genomes. Heat-stable nucleoid structuring (H-NS) protein, a global transcriptional repressor in bacteria, was identified in one of the complete phage genomes (EPV1), and was most similar to a homolog in CAP. We infer that EPV1 is a CAP-specific phage and has the potential to repress up to 6% of host genes based on the presence of putative H-NS binding sites in the CAP genome. These genes include CRISPR associated proteins and a Type III restriction-modification system, which are key host defense mechanisms against phage infection. Further, EPV1 was the only member of the phage community found in an EBPR microbial metagenome collected seven months prior. We propose that EPV1 laterally acquired H-NS from CAP providing it with a means to reduce bacterial defenses, a selective advantage over other phage in the EBPR system. Phage encoded H-NS could constitute a previously unrecognized weapon in the phage-host arms race.
A phi 80 transducing phage, phi 80imm lambdadhis, carrying the Salmonella his-gnd region, was characterized by immunity studies, tonB deletion analysis, and marker rescue analysis. Phi 80imm lambdadhis retains the phage immunity region of the phi 80-lambda hybrid phage from which it was derived. Bacterial genes replace most late phage genes. Deletion analysis shows the prophage gene order to be immlambda-his-gnd and indicates the orientation of the his operon to be hisOGDCBHAFIE-gnd. The structure of phi 80imm lambdadhis is remarkably similar to two independently isolated phi 80 phages that carry the his-gnd region of Escherichia coli and that, like phi80imm lambdahis, were derived by directed gene transposition to the tonB locus. A derivative of phi 80imm lambdadhis that is phi 80 immune is also reported.
Phages of the P335 group have recently emerged as important taxa among lactococcal phages that disrupt dairy fermentations. DNA sequencing has revealed extensive homologies between the lytic and temperate phages of this group. The P335 lytic phage φ31 encodes a genetic switch region of cI and cro homologs but lacks the phage attachment site and integrase necessary to establish lysogeny. When the putative cI repressor gene of phage φ31 was subcloned into the medium-copy-number vector pAK80, no superinfection immunity was conferred to the host, Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis NCK203, indicating that the wild-type CI repressor was dysfunctional. Attempts to clone the full-length cI gene in Lactococcus in the high-copy-number shuttle vector pTRKH2 were unsuccessful. The single clone that was recovered harbored an ochre mutation in the cI gene after the first 128 amino acids of the predicted 180-amino-acid protein. In the presence of the truncated CI construct, pTRKH2::CI-per1, phage φ31 was inhibited to an efficiency of plaquing (EOP) of 10−6 in NCK203. A pTRKH2 subclone which lacked the DNA downstream of the ochre mutation, pTRKH2::CI-per2, confirmed the phenotype and further reduced the φ31 EOP to <10−7. Phage φ31 mutants, partially resistant to CI-per, were isolated and showed changes in two of three putative operator sites for CI and Cro binding. Both the wild-type and truncated CI proteins bound the two wild-type operators in gel mobility shift experiments, but the mutated operators were not bound by the truncated CI. Twelve of 16 lytic P335 group phages failed to form plaques on L. lactis harboring pTRKH2::CI-per2, while 4 phages formed plaques at normal efficiencies. Comparisons of amino acid and DNA level homologies with other lactococcal temperate phage repressors suggest that evolutionary events may have led to inactivation of the φ31 CI repressor. This study demonstrated that a number of different P335 phages, lytic for L. lactis NCK203, have a common operator region which can be targeted by a truncated derivative of a dysfunctional CI repressor.
The presence of prophages has been an important variable in genetic exchange and divergence in most bacteria. This study reports the determination of the genomic sequence of Salmonella phage ε34, a temperate bacteriophage that was important in the early study of prophages that modify their hosts' cell surface and is of a type (P22-like) that is common in Salmonella genomes.
The sequence shows that ε34 is a mosaically related member of the P22 branch of the lambdoid phages. Its sequence is compared with the known P22-like phages and several related but previously unanalyzed prophage sequences in reported bacterial genome sequences.
These comparisons indicate that there has been little if any genetic exchange within the procapsid assembly gene cluster with P22-like E. coli/Shigella phages that are have orthologous but divergent genes in this region. Presumably this observation reflects the fact that virion assembly proteins interact intimately and divergent proteins can no longer interact. On the other hand, non-assembly genes in the "ant moron" appear to be in a state of rapid flux, and regulatory genes outside the assembly gene cluster have clearly enjoyed numerous and recent horizontal exchanges with phages outside the P22-like group. The present analysis also shows that ε34 harbors a gtrABC gene cluster which should encode the enzymatic machinery to chemically modify the host O antigen polysaccharide, thus explaining its ability to alter its host's serotype. A comprehensive comparative analysis of the known phage gtrABC gene clusters shows that they are highly mobile, having been exchanged even between phage types, and that most "bacterial" gtrABC genes lie in prophages that vary from being largely intact to highly degraded. Clearly, temperate phages are very major contributors to the O-antigen serotype of their Salmonella hosts.
The complete sequence of the 46,267 bp genome of the lytic bacteriophage tf specific to Pseudomonas putida PpG1 has been determined. The phage genome has two sets of convergently transcribed genes and 186 bp long direct terminal repeats. The overall genomic architecture of the tf phage is similar to that of the previously described Pseudomonas aeruginosa phages PaP3, LUZ24 and phiMR299-2, and 39 out of the 72 products of predicted tf open reading frames have orthologs in these phages. Accordingly, tf was classified as belonging to the LUZ24-like bacteriophage group. However, taking into account very low homology levels between tf DNA and that of the other phages, tf should be considered as an evolutionary divergent member of the group. Two distinguishing features not reported for other members of the group were found in the tf genome. Firstly, a unique end structure – a blunt right end and a 4-nucleotide 3′-protruding left end – was observed. Secondly, 14 single-chain interruptions (nicks) were found in the top strand of the tf DNA. All nicks were mapped within a consensus sequence 5′-TACT/RTGMC-3′. Two nicks were analyzed in detail and were shown to be present in more than 90% of the phage population. Although localized nicks were previously found only in the DNA of T5-like and phiKMV-like phages, it seems increasingly likely that this enigmatic structural feature is common to various other bacteriophages.
Coliphage phi1, which was isolated for phage therapy in the Republic of Georgia,
is closely related to the T-like myovirus RB49. The ∼275 open reading
frames encoded by each phage have an average level of amino acid identity of
95.8%. RB49 lacks 7 phi1 genes while 10 phi1 genes are missing from RB49. Most
of these unique genes encode functions without known homologs. Many of the
insertion, deletion, and replacement events that distinguish the two phages are
in the hyperplastic regions (HPRs) of their genomes. The HPRs are rich in both
nonessential genes and small regulatory cassettes (promoterearly
stem-loops [PeSLs]) composed of strong σ70-like promoters
and stem-loop structures, which are effective transcription terminators. Modular
shuffling mediated by recombination between PeSLs has caused much of the
sequence divergence between RB49 and phi1. We show that exchanges between nearby
PeSLs can also create small circular DNAs that are apparently encapsidated by
the virus. Such PeSL “mini-circles” may be important vectors
for horizontal gene transfer.
T4-like phage; genome evolution; modular shuffling; regulatory cassette
CP81 is a virulent Campylobacter group III phage whose linear genome comprises 132,454 bp. At the nucleotide level, CP81 differs from other phages. However, a number of its structural and replication/recombination proteins revealed a relationship to the group II Campylobacter phages CP220/CPt10 and to T4-type phages. Unlike the T4-related phages, the CP81 genome does not contain conserved replication and virion modules. Instead, the respective genes are scattered throughout the phage genome. Moreover, most genes for metabolic enzymes of CP220/CPt10 are lacking in CP81. On the other hand, the CP81 genome contains nine similar genes for homing endonucleases which may be involved in the attrition of the conserved gene order for the virion core genes of T4-type phages. The phage apparently possesses an unusual modification of C or G bases. Efficient cleavage of its DNA was only achieved with restriction enzymes recognizing pure A/T sites. Uncommonly, phenol extraction leads to a significant loss of CP81 DNA from the aqueous layer, a property not yet described for other phages belonging to the T4 superfamily.
In this report, we characterize the complete genome sequence of the temperate phage K139, which morphologically belongs to the Myoviridae phage family (P2 and 186). The prophage genome consists of 33,106 bp, and the overall GC content is 48.9%. Forty-four open reading frames were identified. Homology analysis and motif search were used to assign possible functions for the genes, revealing a close relationship to P2-like phages. By Southern blot screening of a Vibrio cholerae strain collection, two highly K139-related phage sequences were detected in non-O1, non-O139 strains. Combinatorial PCR analysis revealed almost identical genome organizations. One region of variable gene content was identified and sequenced. Additionally, the tail fiber genes were analyzed, leading to the identification of putative host-specific sequence variations. Furthermore, a K139-encoded Dam methyltransferase was characterized.
Many sequenced bacterial genomes harbor phage-like elements or cryptic prophages. These elements have been implicated in pathogenesis, serotype conversion and phage immunity. The e14 element is a defective lambdoid prophage element present at 25 min in the E. coli K-12 genome. This prophage encodes important functional genes such as lit (T4 exclusion), mcrA (modified cytosine restriction activity) and pin (recombinase).
Bioinformatic analysis of the e14 prophage sequence shows the modular nature of the e14 element which shares a large part of its sequence with the Shigella flexneri phage SfV. Based on this similarity, the regulatory region including the repressor and Cro proteins and their binding sites were identified. The protein product of b1149 was found to be a fusion of a replication protein and a terminase. The genes b1143, b1151 and b1152 were identified as putative pseudogenes. A number of duplications of the stfE tail fibre gene of the e14 are seen in plasmid p15B. A protein based comparative approach using the COG database as a starting point helped detect lambdoid prophage like elements in a representative set of completely sequenced genomes.
The e14 element was characterized for the function of its encoded genes, the regulatory regions, replication origin and homology with other phage and bacterial sequences. Comparative analysis at nucleotide and protein levels suggest that a number of important phage related functions are missing in the e14 genome including parts of the early left operon, early right operon and late operon. The loss of these genes is the result of at least three major deletions that have occurred on e14 since its integration. A comparative protein level approach using the COG database can be effectively used to detect defective lambdoid prophage like elements in bacterial genomes.
e14; lambdoid phage; modular genome; decaying prophage
The circuitry of the phage λ genetic switch determining the outcome of lytic or lysogenic growth is well-integrated and complex, raising the question as to how it evolved. It is plausible that it arose from a simpler ancestral switch with fewer components that underwent various additions and refinements, as it adapted to vast numbers of different hosts and conditions. We have recently identified a new class of genetic switches found in mycobacteriophages and other prophages, in which immunity is dependent on integration. These switches contain only three genes (integrase, repressor and cro) and represent a major departure from the λ-like circuitry, lacking many features such as xis, cII and cIII. These small self-contained switches represent an unrealized, elegant circuitry for controlling infection outcome. In this addendum, we propose a model of possible events in the evolution of a complex λ-like switch from a simpler integration-dependent switch.
genetic switch; genetic circuits; bistable; integration-dependent immunity; lytic and lysogenic growth
A Shiga toxin (Stx)-encoding temperate bacteriophage of Shigella sonnei strain CB7888 was investigated for its morphology, DNA similarity, host range, and lysogenization in Shigella and Escherichia coli strains. Phage 7888 formed plaques on a broad spectrum of Shigella strains belonging to different species and serotypes, including Stx-producing Shigella dysenteriae type 1. With E. coli, only strains with rough lipopolysaccharide were sensitive to this phage. The phage integrated into the genome of nontoxigenic S. sonnei and laboratory E. coli K-12 strains, which became Stx positive upon lysogenization. Moreover, phage 7888 is capable of transducing chromosomal genes in E. coli K-12. The relationships of phage 7888 with the E. coli Stx1-producing phage H-19B and the E. coli Stx2-producing phage 933W were investigated by DNA cross-hybridization of phage genomes and by nucleotide sequencing of an 8,053-bp DNA region of the phage 7888 genome flanking the stx genes. By these methods, a high similarity was found between phages 7888 and 933W. Much less similarity was found between phages H-19B and 7888. As in the other Stx phages, a regulatory region involved in Q-dependent expression is found upstream of stxA and stxB (stx gene) in phage 7888. The morphology of phage 7888 was similar to that of phage 933W, which shows a hexagonal head and a short tail. Our findings demonstrate that stx genes are naturally transferable and are expressed in strains of S. sonnei, which points to the continuous evolution of human-pathogenic Shigella by horizontal gene transfer.
The lytic lactococcal phage Q54 was previously isolated from a failed sour cream production. Its complete genomic sequence (26,537 bp) is reported here, and the analysis indicated that it represents a new Lactococcus lactis phage species. A striking feature of phage Q54 is the low level of similarity of its proteome (47 open reading frames) with proteins in databases. A global gene expression study confirmed the presence of two early gene modules in Q54. The unusual configuration of these modules, combined with results of comparative analysis with other lactococcal phage genomes, suggests that one of these modules was acquired through recombination events between c2- and 936-like phages. Proteolytic cleavage and cross-linking of the major capsid protein were demonstrated through structural protein analyses. A programmed translational frameshift between the major tail protein (MTP) and the receptor-binding protein (RBP) was also discovered. A “shifty stop” signal followed by putative secondary structures is likely involved in frameshifting. To our knowledge, this is only the second report of translational frameshifting (+1) in double-stranded DNA bacteriophages and the first case of translational coupling between an MTP and an RBP. Thus, phage Q54 represents a fascinating member of a new species with unusual characteristics that brings new insights into lactococcal phage evolution.
Comparative genomics demonstrated that the chromosomes from bacteria and their viruses (bacteriophages) are coevolving. This process is most evident for bacterial pathogens where the majority contain prophages or phage remnants integrated into the bacterial DNA. Many prophages from bacterial pathogens encode virulence factors. Two situations can be distinguished: Vibrio cholerae, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, Corynebacterium diphtheriae, and Clostridium botulinum depend on a specific prophage-encoded toxin for causing a specific disease, whereas Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium harbor a multitude of prophages and each phage-encoded virulence or fitness factor makes an incremental contribution to the fitness of the lysogen. These prophages behave like “swarms” of related prophages. Prophage diversification seems to be fueled by the frequent transfer of phage material by recombination with superinfecting phages, resident prophages, or occasional acquisition of other mobile DNA elements or bacterial chromosomal genes. Prophages also contribute to the diversification of the bacterial genome architecture. In many cases, they actually represent a large fraction of the strain-specific DNA sequences. In addition, they can serve as anchoring points for genome inversions. The current review presents the available genomics and biological data on prophages from bacterial pathogens in an evolutionary framework.
The generalized transducing double-stranded DNA bacteriophage ES18 has an icosahedral head and a long noncontractile tail, and it infects both rough and smooth Salmonella enterica strains. We report here the complete 46,900-bp genome nucleotide sequence and provide an analysis of the sequence. Its 79 genes and their organization clearly show that ES18 is a member of the lambda-like (lambdoid) phage group; however, it contains a novel set of genes that program assembly of the virion head. Most of its integration-excision, immunity, Nin region, and lysis genes are nearly identical to those of the short-tailed Salmonella phage P22, while other early genes are nearly identical to Escherichia coli phages λ and HK97, S. enterica phage ST64T, or a Shigella flexneri prophage. Some of the ES18 late genes are novel, while others are most closely related to phages HK97, lambda, or N15. Thus, the ES18 genome is mosaically related to other lambdoid phages, as is typical for all group members. Analysis of virion DNA showed that it is circularly permuted and about 10% terminally redundant and that initiation of DNA packaging series occurs across an approximately 1-kbp region rather than at a precise location on the genome. This supports a model in which ES18 terminase can move substantial distances along the DNA between recognition and cleavage of DNA destined to be packaged. Bioinformatic analysis of large terminase subunits shows that the different functional classes of phage-encoded terminases can usually be predicted from their amino acid sequence.