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1.  Efficient engineering of a bacteriophage genome using the type I-E CRISPR-Cas system 
RNA Biology  2014;11(1):42-44.
The clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-CRISPR-associated (Cas) system has recently been used to engineer genomes of various organisms, but surprisingly, not those of bacteriophages (phages). Here we present a method to genetically engineer the Escherichia coli phage T7 using the type I-E CRISPR-Cas system. T7 phage genome is edited by homologous recombination with a DNA sequence flanked by sequences homologous to the desired location. Non-edited genomes are targeted by the CRISPR-Cas system, thus enabling isolation of the desired recombinant phages. This method broadens CRISPR Cas-based editing to phages and uses a CRISPR-Cas type other than type II. The method may be adjusted to genetically engineer any bacteriophage genome.
PMCID: PMC3929423  PMID: 24457913
Escherichia coli; Bacteriophage T7; homologous recombination; positive selection; negative selection; genetic engineering; spacer targeting
2.  Discovery of functional toxin/antitoxin systems in bacteria by shotgun cloning 
Molecular cell  2013;50(1):136-148.
Toxin-antitoxin (TA) modules, composed of a toxic protein and a counteracting antitoxin, play important roles in bacterial physiology. We examined the experimental insertion of 1.5 million genes from 388 microbial genomes into an Escherichia coli host using over 8.5 million random clones. This revealed hundreds of genes (toxins) that could only be cloned when the neighboring gene (antitoxin) was present on the same clone. Clustering of these genes revealed novel TA families widespread in bacterial genomes, some of which deviate from the classical characteristics previously described for such modules. Introduction of these genes into E. coli validated that the toxin toxicity is mitigated by the antitoxin. Infection experiments with T7 phage showed that two of the new modules can provide resistance against phage. Moreover, our experiments revealed an 'anti-defense' protein in phage T7 that neutralizes phage resistance. Our results expose active fronts in the arms race between bacteria and phage.
PMCID: PMC3644417  PMID: 23478446
3.  Different approaches for using bacteriophages against antibiotic-resistant bacteria 
Bacteriophage  2014;4:e28491.
Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is an emerging threat requiring urgent solutions. Ever since their discovery, lytic bacteriophages have been suggested as therapeutic agents, but their application faces various obstacles: sequestration of the phage by the spleen and liver, antibodies against the phage, narrow host range, poor accessibility to the infected tissue, and bacterial resistance. Variations on bacteriophage use have been suggested, such as temperate phages as gene-delivery vehicles into pathogens. This approach, which is proposed to sensitize pathogens residing on hospital surfaces and medical personnel's skin, and its prospects are described in this addendum. Furthermore, phage-encoded products have been proposed as weapons against antibiotic resistance in bacteria. We describe a new phage protein which was identified during basic research into T7 bacteriophages. This protein may serendipitously prove useful for treating antibiotic-resistant pathogens. We believe that further basic research will lead to novel strategies in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
PMCID: PMC3956485  PMID: 24653944
temperate bacteriophage; sensitizing gene; lysin; host takeover; bacterial division
4.  Reversing Bacterial Resistance to Antibiotics by Phage-Mediated Delivery of Dominant Sensitive Genes 
Pathogen resistance to antibiotics is a rapidly growing problem, leading to an urgent need for novel antimicrobial agents. Unfortunately, development of new antibiotics faces numerous obstacles, and a method that resensitizes pathogens to approved antibiotics therefore holds key advantages. We present a proof of principle for a system that restores antibiotic efficiency by reversing pathogen resistance. This system uses temperate phages to introduce, by lysogenization, the genes rpsL and gyrA conferring sensitivity in a dominant fashion to two antibiotics, streptomycin and nalidixic acid, respectively. Unique selective pressure is generated to enrich for bacteria that harbor the phages carrying the sensitizing constructs. This selection pressure is based on a toxic compound, tellurite, and therefore does not forfeit any antibiotic for the sensitization procedure. We further demonstrate a possible way of reducing undesirable recombination events by synthesizing dominant sensitive genes with major barriers to homologous recombination. Such synthesis does not significantly reduce the gene's sensitization ability. Unlike conventional bacteriophage therapy, the system does not rely on the phage's ability to kill pathogens in the infected host, but instead, on its ability to deliver genetic constructs into the bacteria and thus render them sensitive to antibiotics prior to host infection. We believe that transfer of the sensitizing cassette by the constructed phage will significantly enrich for antibiotic-treatable pathogens on hospital surfaces. Broad usage of the proposed system, in contrast to antibiotics and phage therapy, will potentially change the nature of nosocomial infections toward being more susceptible to antibiotics rather than more resistant.
PMCID: PMC3264097  PMID: 22113912
5.  Proteins and DNA elements essential for the CRISPR adaptation process in Escherichia coli 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(12):5569-5576.
The clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and their associated proteins (CRISPR/Cas) constitute a recently identified prokaryotic defense mechanism against invading nucleic acids. Activity of the CRISPR/Cas system comprises of three steps: (i) insertion of alien DNA sequences into the CRISPR array to prevent future attacks, in a process called ‘adaptation’, (ii) expression of the relevant proteins, as well as expression and processing of the array, followed by (iii) RNA-mediated interference with the alien nucleic acid. Here we describe a robust assay in Escherichia coli to explore the hitherto least-studied process, adaptation. We identify essential genes and DNA elements in the leader sequence and in the array which are essential for the adaptation step. We also provide mechanistic insights on the insertion of the repeat-spacer unit by showing that the first repeat serves as the template for the newly inserted repeat. Taken together, our results elucidate fundamental steps in the adaptation process of the CRISPR/Cas system.
PMCID: PMC3384332  PMID: 22402487
6.  The Escherichia coli CRISPR System Protects from λ Lysogenization, Lysogens, and Prophage Induction ▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(23):6291-6294.
We show that phage lysogenization, lysogens, and prophage induction are all targeted by CRISPR. The results demonstrate that genomic DNA is not immune to the CRISPR system, that the CRISPR system does not require noncytoplasmic elements, and that the system protects from phages entering and exiting the lysogenic cycle.
PMCID: PMC2981215  PMID: 20889749
7.  Restoration of Gene Function by Homologous Recombination: from PCR to Gene Expression in One Step 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2004;70(12):7156-7160.
We have developed a simple method for single-step cloning of any PCR product into a plasmid. A novel selection principle has been applied, in which activation of a drug selection marker is achieved following homologous recombination. In this method a DNA fragment is amplified by PCR with standard oligonucleotides that contain flanking tails derived from the host plasmid and the complete λPR or rrnA1 promoter regions. The resulting PCR product is then electroporated into an Escherichia coli strain harboring both the phage λ Red functions and the host plasmid. Upon homologous recombination of the PCR fragment into the plasmid, expression of a drug selection marker is fully induced due to restoration of its truncated promoter, thus allowing appropriate selection. Recombinant plasmid vectors encoding β-galactosidase and neomycin phosphotransferase were constructed by using this method in two well-known Red systems. This cloning strategy significantly reduces both the time and costs associated with cloning procedures.
PMCID: PMC535207  PMID: 15574912

Results 1-7 (7)