Phage targets for adsorption can include: (1) individual bacteria; (2) bacterial cellular arrangements such as streptococci; (3) microcolonies consisting of bacterial clones as can make up bacterial lawns and biofilms; and (4) bacterial biofilms themselves. While much effort has gone into considering category 1, and some into category 4, substantially less has been put into the question of how bacterial association into clonal arrangements or microcolonies might affect phage-bacterial interactions. Recently I have been exploring just this issue—within a single-authored monograph published in 2011 and a theoretical article published in 2012 as part of a special issue of the journal, Viruses. For this commentary, I have been invited to summarize my thinking on how bacterial association into either cellular arrangements or microcolonies might affect their susceptibility to phages along with related issues of bacterial resistance to phages and phage propagation in the context of both plaques and biofilms.
bacteriophages; biofilm; cellular arrangement; lysis inhibition; microcolony; phage; phage ecology; plaque formation; T-even phages
Bacteriophages (phages) have been utilized for decades as a means for uniquely identifying their target bacteria. Due to their inherent natural specificity, ease of use, and straightforward production, phage possess a number of desirable attributes which makes them particularly suited as bacterial detectors. As a result, extensive research has been conducted into the development of phage, or phage-derived products to expedite the detection of human pathogens. However, very few phage-based diagnostics have transitioned from the research lab into a clinical diagnostic tool. Herein we review the phage-based platforms that are currently used for the detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Yersinia pestis, Bacillus anthracis and Staphylococcus aureus in the clinical field. We briefly describe the disease, the current diagnostic options, and the role phage diagnostics play in identifying the cause of infection, and determining antibiotic susceptibility.
clinical diagnosis; bacterial detection; phage; reporter; bioluminescence; infectious disease; species identification
The quality of bacteriophage electron microscopy appears to be on a downward course since the 1980s. This coincides with the introduction of digital electron microscopes and a general lowering of standards, possibly due to the disappearance of several world-class electron microscopists The most important problem seems to be poor contrast. Positive staining is frequently not recognized as an undesirable artifact. Phage parts, bacterial debris, and aberrant or damaged phage particles may be misdiagnosed as bacterial viruses. Digital electron microscopes often seem to be operated without magnification control because this is difficult and inconvenient. In summary, most phage electron microscopy problems may be attributed to human failure. Journals are a last-ditch defense and have a heavy responsibility in selecting competent reviewers and rejecting, or not, unsatisfactory articles.
artifacts; contrast; crystals; digital electron microscopy; dimensions; fake viruses focus; misdiagnosis; monsters; positive staining; purification
Since the enlightenment, scientists have enjoyed a self-image as rational actors, guided only by reason, evidence and logic. When the Royal Society of London was founded in 1660 it chose as its motto “nullius in verba” (often translated as “on the word of no one”) a reference to Horace’s Epistles “Nullius addictus iurare in verba magistri…” (being not obliged swear allegiance to any master). Similar to our 21st century contemporaries who embrace the “new evidenced-based medicine,” the “virtuosi” of the Royal Society proclaimed a new era in science based only on observation and direct experience.
phage therapy; Félix d'Herelle; Gunther Stent; Frederick Twort; lytic principle
New immunoreagents for detection of TNT-derivatives TNP and TNP-Tris were developed using phage display technique. The monovalent and pentavalent recombinant phages carrying scFv specific for TNT were constructed and compared with each other to define the impact of valency and molecule dimension on antibody binding in immunoassay. Also, the bifunctional phages were generated, which carried TNT-specific scFvs as well as enzyme β-lactamase as a model marker on its surface. The most sensitive recombinant phages were selected and used for detection of TNP-Tris in a competitive ELISA based on immobilized antigen. Preincubation and partial phages saturation with a sample containing antigen allowed competition with immobilized hapten and displacement of free antigen. The phages exposing enzyme were used as immunoreagents for single step detection. The other phages were detected with specific marked antibodies. To date, the results presented in this paper are the first ever published regarding the recombinant phages for the detection of TNT.
TNT; phage; scFv; recombinant; immunoassay
Staphylococcus aureus pathogenicity islands (SaPIs) are mobile genetic elements that encode virulence factors and depend on helper phages for their mobilization. Such mobilization is specific and depends on the ability of a phage protein to inactivate the SaPI repressor Stl. Phage 80α can mobilize several SaPIs, including SaPI1 and SaPIbov1, via its Sri and Dut proteins, respectively. In many cases, the capsids formed in the presence of the SaPI are smaller than those normally produced by the phage. Two SaPI-encoded proteins, CpmA and CpmB, are involved in this size determination process. S. aureus strain Newman contains four prophages, named φNM1 through φNM4. Phages φNM1 and φNM2 are very similar to phage 80α in the structural genes, and encode almost identical Sri proteins, while their Dut proteins are highly divergent. We show that φNM1 and φNM2 are able to mobilize both SaPI1 and SaPIbov1 and yield infectious transducing particles. The majority of the capsids formed in all cases are small, showing that both SaPIs can redirect the capsid size of both φNM1 and φNM2.
mobile genetic elements; SaPI1; SaPIbov1; bacteriophage assembly; capsid size determination
A mycobacteriophage-specific repressor with the enhanced operator DNA binding activity at 32°C and no activity at 42°C has not been generated yet though it has potential in developing a temperature-controlled expression vector for mycobacterial system. To create such an invaluable repressor, here we have characterized four substitution mutants of mycobacteriophage L1 repressor by various probes. The W69C repressor mutant displayed no operator DNA binding activity, whereas, P131L repressor mutant exhibited very little DNA binding at 32°C. In contrast, both E36K and E39Q repressor mutants showed significantly higher DNA binding activity at 32°C, particularly, under in vivo conditions. Various mutations also had different effects on the structure, stability and the dimerization ability of L1 repressor. While the W69C mutant possessed a distorted tertiary structure, the P131L mutant dimerized poorly in solution at 32°C. Interestingly, both these mutants lost their two-domain structure and aggregated rapidly at 42°C. Of the native and mutant L1 repressor proteins, W69C and E36K mutants appeared to be the least stable at 32°C. Studies together suggest that the mutants, particularly P131L and E39Q mutants, could be used for creating a high affinity temperature-sensitive repressor in the future.
mycobacteriophage L1; repressor; early promoter; operator DNA; mutant repressor and expression vector
Two inducible temperate bacteriophages ΦS9 and ΦS63 from Clostridium perfringens were sequenced and analyzed. Isometric heads and long non-contractile tails classify ΦS9 and ΦS63 in the Siphoviridae family, and their genomes consist of 39,457 bp (ΦS9) and 33,609 bp (ΦS63) linear dsDNA, respectively. ΦS63 has 3′-overlapping cohesive genome ends, whereas ΦS9 is the first Clostridium phage featuring an experimentally proven terminally redundant and circularly permuted genome. A total of 50 and 43 coding sequences were predicted for ΦS9 and ΦS63, respectively, organized into 6 distinct lifestyle-associated modules typical for temperate Siphoviruses. Putative functions could be assigned to 26 gene products of ΦS9, and to 25 of ΦS63. The ΦS9 attB attachment and insertion site is located in a non-coding region upstream of a putative phosphorylase gene. Interestingly, ΦS63 integrates into the 3′ part of sigK in C. perfringens, and represents the first functional skin-element-like phage described for this genus. With respect to possible effects of lysogeny, we did not obtain evidence that ΦS9 may influence sporulation of a lysogenized host. In contrast, interruption of sigK, a sporulation associated gene in various bacteria, by the ΦS63 prophage insertion is more likely to affect sporulation of its carrier.
Clostridium perfringens; prophage; attachment site; sporulation; skin-element
Quantification of bacteriophages by real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) is an interesting alternative to the traditional plaque assay. Importantly, the method should in principle be able to discriminate between closely related phages that are indistinguishable by most other means. Here, a method is presented that employs qPCR to discriminate and quantify ten closely related lambdoid phages of Escherichia coli str. K-12. It is shown that (1) treatment of samples with DNase efficiently removes non-encapsidated DNA, while the titer of plaque forming units is not affected, (2) individual phage types can be accurately quantified in mixed lysates, and (3) the detection limit corresponds to that of a plaque assay. The method is used to quantify individual phage types that are released from lysogens that carry up to three different prophages.
multiple infections; real-time quantitative PCR; bacteriophages; Escherichia coli; bacteriophage lambda; lambdoid bacteriophages; detection; discrimination; quantification; polylysogeny
In 1921, Richard Bruynoghe and his student Joséph Maisin published on the first use of bacteriophages in a phage therapy context. At that time, Bruynoghe (a medical doctor) was affiliated as a professor at the KU Leuven (Belgium) for just over a decade, within the Bacteriological Institute which he founded and led. After a distinguished career (he was acting mayor of the city of Leuven-Belgium during the second World War), he received a special medical award in 1951 just before his retirement in 1952. In this perspective, he was asked to provide an overview of his research for a lay-audience within the local University magazine: Onze Alma Mater (Our alma mater). We, as current affiliates of the KU Leuven are honored to present some of his legacy, which to date has been largely overlooked in historical accounts.
bacteria; bacteriophages; historical overview; phage biology; phage therapy
Bacteriophages offer interesting alternatives to antibodies for the specific capture and detection of pathogenic bacteria onto biosensing surfaces. Procedures for the optimal chemical immobilization of lytic bacteriophages onto surfaces are presented. More specifically, the removal of lysate contaminants from bacteriophage suspensions by size exclusion chromatography significantly increases the resultant planar surface density of immobilized bacteriophages. E. coli T4 and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium P22 phage systems seem to undergo highly heterogeneous adsorption to the surface, possibly explaining the observed phage clustering at higher surface densities. The T4 phage and its E. coli host were initially employed as a model system where we discovered an optimal planar surface density of phages for best bacterial capture: 18.9 ± 0.8 phages/μm2 capturing 18.0 ± 0.3 bacteria/100 μm2. Phage surface clustering ultimately limits the T4 phage-immobilized surface’s ability to specifically capture its host bacteria. Nevertheless, this is to our knowledge the largest surface capture density of E. coli reported using intact T4 bacteriophages. Two additional purified bacteriophage systems (P22 and Campylobacter jejuni phage NCTC 12673) were then similarly studied for their ability to capture their corresponding host bacteria (Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and Campylobacter jejuni respectively) on a surface.
bacteriophage; biosensor; food contamination; pathogenic bacteria; purification; surface adsorption; virus immobilization
We investigate genes of lytic, Bacillus thuringiensis bacteriophage 0305ϕ8-36 that are non-essential for laboratory propagation, but might have a function in the wild. We isolate deletion mutants to identify these genes. The non-permutation of the genome (218.948 Kb, with a 6.479 Kb terminal repeat and 247 identified orfs) simplifies isolation of deletion mutants. We find two islands of non-essential genes. The first island (3.01% of the genomic DNA) has an informatically identified DNA translocation operon. Deletion causes no detectable growth defect during propagation in a dilute agarose overlay. Identification of the DNA translocation operon begins with a DNA relaxase and continues with a translocase and membrane-binding anchor proteins. The relaxase is in a family, first identified here, with homologs in other bacteriophages. The second deleted island (3.71% of the genome) has genes for two metallo-protein chaperonins and two tRNAs. Deletion causes a significant growth defect. In addition, (1) we find by “in situ” (in-plaque) single-particle fluorescence microscopy that adsorption to the host occurs at the tip of the 486 nm long tail, (2) we develop a procedure of 0305ϕ8-36 purification that does not cause tail contraction, and (3) we then find by electron microscopy that 0305ϕ8-36 undergoes tail tip-tail tip dimerization that potentially blocks adsorption to host cells, presumably with effectiveness that increases as the bacteriophage particle concentration increases. These observations provide an explanation of the previous observation that 0305ϕ8-36 does not lyse liquid cultures, even though 0305ϕ8-36 is genomically lytic.
bacteriophage; deletion mutant; DNA sequencing; electron microscopy; fluorescence microscopy; informatics; long-genome; microbial biofilm
Elongated trimeric adhesins are a distinct class of proteins employed by phages and viruses to recognize and bind to their host cells, and by bacteria to bind to their target cells and tissues. The tailspikes of E. coli phage K1F and Bacillus phage Ø29 exhibit auto-chaperone activity in their trimeric C-terminal domains. The P22 tailspike is structurally homologous to those adhesins. Though there are no disulfide bonds or reactive cysteines in the native P22 tailspikes, a set of C-terminal cysteines are very reactive in partially folded intermediates, implying an unusual local conformation in the domain. This is likely to be involved in the auto-chaperone function. We examined the unusual reactivity of C-terminal tailspike cysteines during folding and assembly as a potential reporter of auto-chaperone function. Reaction with IAA blocked productive refolding in vitro, but not off-pathway aggregation. Two-dimensional PAGE revealed that the predominant intermediate exhibiting reactive cysteine side chains was a partially folded monomer. Treatment with reducing reagent promoted native trimer formation from these species, consistent with transient disulfide bonds in the auto-chaperone domain. Limited enzymatic digestion and mass spectrometry of folding and assembly intermediates indicated that the C-terminal domain was compact in the protrimer species. These results indicate that the C-terminal domain of the P22 tailspike folds itself and associates prior to formation of the protrimer intermediate, and not after, as previously proposed. The C-terminal cysteines and triple β-helix domains apparently provide the staging for the correct auto-chaperone domain formation, needed for alignment of P22 tailspike native trimer.
auto-chaperone; cysteines; folding intermediates; tailspike; transient disulfide bond
Recombineering, a recently developed technique for efficient genetic manipulation of bacteria, is facilitated by phage-derived recombination proteins and has the advantage of using DNA substrates with short regions of homology. This system was first developed in E. coli but has since been adapted for use in other bacteria. It is now widely used in a number of different systems for a variety of purposes, and the construction of chromosomal gene knockouts, deletions, insertions, point mutations, as well as in vivo cloning, mutagenesis of bacterial artificial chromosomes and phasmids, and the construction of genomic libraries has been reported. However, these methods also can be effectively applied to the genetic modification of bacteriophage genomes, in both their prophage and lytically growing states. The ever-growing collection of fully sequenced bacteriophages raises more questions than they answer, including the unknown functions of vast numbers of genes with no known homologs and of unknown function. Recombineering of phage genomes is central to addressing these questions, enabling the simple construction of mutants, determination of gene essentiality, and elucidation of gene function. In turn, advances in our understanding of phage genomics should present similar recombineering tools for dissecting a multitude of other genetically naïve bacterial systems.
bacteriophage; BRED; recombineering
Vertebrate animals possess multiple anti-pathogen defenses. Individual mechanisms usually are differentiated into those that are immunologically adaptive vs. more “primitive” anti-pathogen phenomena described as innate responses. Here I frame defenses used by bacteria against bacteriophages as analogous to these animal immune functions. Included are numerous anti-phage defenses in addition to the adaptive immunity associated with CRISPR/cas systems. As these other anti-pathogen mechanisms are non-adaptive they can be described as making up an innate bacterial immunity. This exercise was undertaken in light of the recent excitement over the discovery that CRISPR/cas systems can serve, as noted, as a form of bacterial adaptive immunity. The broader goal, however, is to gain novel insight into bacterial defenses against phages by fitting these mechanisms into considerations of how multicellular organisms also defend themselves against pathogens. This commentary can be viewed in addition as a bid toward integrating these numerous bacterial anti-phage defenses into a more unified immunology.
abortive infection; adsorption resistance; antigen presentation; CRISPR; innate immunity; restriction-modification
A total of 30,000 phage papers, books, or book chapters, published between 1965 and 2010, were analyzed for the ethnic origins of 14,429 first authors. Their names represent 40 linguistic domains or geographic areas and at least 70 languages. British and German names predominate. Results broadly concur with statistics on the frequency of publications by country and show the growing role of Third-World countries in phage research. Irish and Jewish scientists are prominent. Historical and societal factors appear to be very important elements in the advancement of science.
bibliography; cultural theory; ethnic origin; family names; linguistics
Viral codon usage is shaped by the conflicting forces of mutational pressure and selection to match host patterns for optimal expression. We examined whether genomic architecture (single- or double-stranded DNA) influences the degree to which bacteriophage codon usage differ from their primary bacterial hosts and each other. While both correlated equally with their hosts’ genomic nucleotide content, the coat genes of ssDNA phages were less well adapted than those of dsDNA phages to their hosts’ codon usage profiles due to their preference for codons ending in thymine. No specific biases were detected in dsDNA phage genomes. In all nine of ten cases of codon redundancy in which a specific codon was overrepresented, ssDNA phages favored the NNT codon. A cytosine to thymine biased mutational pressure working in conjunction with strong selection against non-synonymous mutations appears be shaping codon usage bias in ssDNA viral genomes.
bacteriophage; codon usage bias; evolution; genome; genomic adaptation; genomic architecture; single-stranded DNA
In the billion years that bacteriophage (or phage) have existed together with bacteria the phage have evolved systems that may be exploited for our benefit. One of these is the lytic system used by the phage to release their progeny from an infected bacterium. Endolysins (or lysins) are highly evolved enzymes in the lytic system produced to cleave essential bonds in the bacterial cell wall peptidoglycan for progeny release. Small quantities of purified recombinant lysin added externally to gram-positive bacteria results in immediate lysis causing log-fold death of the target bacterium. Lysins have now been used successfully in a variety of animal models to control pathogenic antibiotic resistant bacteria found on mucosal surfaces and in infected tissues. The advantages over antibiotics are their specificity for the pathogen without disturbing the normal flora, the low chance of bacterial resistance, and their ability to kill colonizing pathogens on mucosal surfaces, a capacity previously unavailable. Lysins therefore, may be a much-needed anti-infective (or enzybiotic) in an age of mounting antibiotic resistance.
bacteriophage; endolysin; gram-positive bacteria; lytic enzymes; mucosal colonization; phage; prophylaxis; therapeutic
Bacteriophage-encoded proteins which inhibit or modify cellular components may contribute to antibacterial drug discovery by allowing the identification of novel targets. Given their abundance and diversity, phages may have various strategies in host inhibition and therefore may possess a variety of such proteins. Using Rhodococcus equi and phage YF1, we show that a single phage possesses numerous genes that inhibit the host when introduced into the host on a plasmid. These genes mostly encode proteins of unknown function, confirming the potential that this approach may have in providing new antibacterial targets.
antibacterial drug discovery; bactericidal proteins; multidrug resistance; phage YF1; target identification
The aim of this study was to use comparative modeling to predict the three-dimensional structure of the CHAPK protein (cysteine, histidine-dependent amidohydrolase/peptidase domain of the LysK endolysin, derived from bacteriophage K). Iterative PSI-BLAST searches against the Protein Data Bank (PDB) and nonredundant (nr) databases were used to populate a multiple alignment for analysis using the T-Coffee Expresso server. A consensus Maximum Parsimony phylogenetic tree with a bootstrap analysis setting of 1,000 replicates was constructed using MEGA4. Structural templates relevant to our target (CHAPK) were identified, processed in Expresso and used to generate a 3D model in the alignment mode of SWISS-MODEL. These templates were also processed in the I-TASSER web server. A Staphylococcus saprophyticus CHAP domain protein, 2K3A, was identified as the structural template in both servers. The I-TASSER server generated the CHAPK model with the best bond geometries when analyzed using PROCHECK and the most logical organization of the structure. The predicted 3D model indicates that CHAPK has a papain-like fold. Circular dichroism spectropolarimetry also indicated that CHAPK has an αβ fold, which is consistent with the model presented. The putative active site maintained a highly conserved Cys54-His117-Glu134 charge relay and an oxyanion hole residue Asn136. The residue triplet, Cys-His-Glu, is known to be a viable proteolytic triad in which we predict the Cys residue is used in a nucleophilic attack on peptide bonds at a specific site in the pentaglycine cross bridge of staphylococcal cell wall peptidoglycan. Use of comparative modeling has allowed approximation of the 3D structure of CHAPK giving information on the structure and an insight into the binding and active site of the catalytic domain. This may facilitate its development as an alternative antibacterial agent.
bacteriophage; CHAP; endolysin; in silico; peptidase; staphylococcus
The phylogenetic relationships and structural similarities of the proteins encoded within the regulatory region (containing the integrase gene and the lytic–lysogenic transcriptional switch genes) of P2-like phages were analyzed, and compared with the phylogenetic relationship of P2-like phages inferred from four structural genes. P2-like phages are thought to be one of the most genetically homogenous phage groups but the regulatory region nevertheless varies extensively between different phage genomes.
The analyses showed that there are many types of regulatory regions, but two types can be clearly distinguished; regions similar either to the phage P2 or to the phage 186 regulatory regions. These regions were also found to be most frequent among the sequenced P2-like phage or prophage genomes, and common in phages using Escherichia coli as a host. Both the phylogenetic and the structural analyses showed that these two regions are related. The integrases as well as the cox/apl genes show a common monophyletic origin but the immunity repressor genes, the type P2 C gene and the type 186 cI gene, are likely of different origin. There was no indication of recombination between the P2–186 types of regulatory genes but the comparison of the phylogenies of the regulatory region with the phylogeny based on four structural genes revealed recombinational events between the regulatory region and the structural genes.
Less common regulatory regions were phylogenetically heterogeneous and typically contained a fusion of genes from distantly related or unknown phages and P2-like genes.
gamma-proteobacteria; lytic-lysogenic transcriptional switch; P2-like bacteriophages; peduovirinae; phage integration; phylogenetic analysis
The first phage electron micrographs were published in 1940 in Germany and proved the particulate nature of bacteriophages. Phages and infected bacteria were first examined raw and unstained. US American scientists introduced shadowing and freeze-drying. Phages appeared to be tailed and morphologically heterogeneous. Phage types identified by early electron microscopy include enterobacteriophages T4, T1, T7, T5, 7–11, ViI and Pseudomonas phage PB1. This paper retraces the development of early virus electron microscopy till the introduction of negative staining.
bacteriophage; electron microscopy; history
It can be difficult to appreciate just how small bacteria and phages are or how large, in comparison, the volumes that they occupy. A single milliliter, for example, can represent to a phage what would be, with proper scaling, an “ocean” to you and me. Here I illustrate, using more easily visualized macroscopic examples, the difficulties that a phage, as a randomly diffusing particle, can have in locating bacteria to infect. I conclude by restating the truism that the rate of phage adsorption to a given target bacterium is a function of phage density, that is, titer, in combination with the degree of bacterial susceptibility to adsorption by an encountering phage.
mean free path; phage adsorption; phage therapy