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1.  The double-edged sword of CRISPR-Cas systems 
Cell Research  2012;23(1):15-17.
PMCID: PMC3541657  PMID: 22945354
2.  Involvement of the Major Capsid Protein and Two Early-Expressed Phage Genes in the Activity of the Lactococcal Abortive Infection Mechanism AbiT 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(19):6890-6899.
The dairy industry uses the mesophilic, Gram-positive, lactic acid bacterium (LAB) Lactococcus lactis to produce an array of fermented milk products. Milk fermentation processes are susceptible to contamination by virulent phages, but a plethora of phage control strategies are available. One of the most efficient is to use LAB strains carrying phage resistance systems such as abortive infection (Abi) mechanisms. Yet, the mode of action of most Abi systems remains poorly documented. Here, we shed further light on the antiviral activity of the lactococcal AbiT system. Twenty-eight AbiT-resistant phage mutants derived from the wild-type AbiT-sensitive lactococcal phages p2, bIL170, and P008 were isolated and characterized. Comparative genomic analyses identified three different genes that were mutated in these virulent AbiT-insensitive phage derivatives: e14 (bIL170 [e14bIL170]), orf41 (P008 [orf41P008]), and orf6 (p2 [orf6p2] and P008 [orf6P008]). The genes e14bIL170 and orf41P008 are part of the early-expressed genomic region, but bioinformatic analyses did not identify their putative function. orf6 is found in the phage morphogenesis module. Antibodies were raised against purified recombinant ORF6, and immunoelectron microscopy revealed that it is the major capsid protein (MCP). Coexpression in L. lactis of ORF6p2 and ORF5p2, a protease, led to the formation of procapsids. To our knowledge, AbiT is the first Abi system involving distinct phage genes.
PMCID: PMC3457483  PMID: 22820334
3.  Cleavage of Phage DNA by the Streptococcus thermophilus CRISPR3-Cas System 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e40913.
Streptococcus thermophilus, similar to other Bacteria and Archaea, has developed defense mechanisms to protect cells against invasion by foreign nucleic acids, such as virus infections and plasmid transformations. One defense system recently described in these organisms is the CRISPR-Cas system (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats loci coupled to CRISPR-associated genes). Two S. thermophilus CRISPR-Cas systems, CRISPR1-Cas and CRISPR3-Cas, have been shown to actively block phage infection. The CRISPR1-Cas system interferes by cleaving foreign dsDNA entering the cell in a length-specific and orientation-dependant manner. Here, we show that the S. thermophilus CRISPR3-Cas system acts by cleaving phage dsDNA genomes at the same specific position inside the targeted protospacer as observed with the CRISPR1-Cas system. Only one cleavage site was observed in all tested strains. Moreover, we observed that the CRISPR1-Cas and CRISPR3-Cas systems are compatible and, when both systems are present within the same cell, provide increased resistance against phage infection by both cleaving the invading dsDNA. We also determined that overall phage resistance efficiency is correlated to the total number of newly acquired spacers in both CRISPR loci.
PMCID: PMC3401199  PMID: 22911717
4.  A reverse transcriptase-related protein mediates phage resistance and polymerizes untemplated DNA in vitro 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(17):7620-7629.
Reverse transcriptases (RTs) are RNA-dependent DNA polymerases that usually function in the replication of selfish DNAs such as retrotransposons and retroviruses. Here, we have biochemically characterized a RT-related protein, AbiK, which is required for abortive phage infection in the Gram-positive bacterium Lactococcus lactis. In vitro, AbiK does not exhibit the properties expected for an RT, but polymerizes long DNAs of ‘random’ sequence, analogous to a terminal transferase. Moreover, the polymerized DNAs appear to be covalently attached to the AbiK protein, presumably because an amino acid serves as a primer. Mutagenesis experiments indicate that the polymerase activity resides in the RT motifs and is essential for phage resistance in vivo. These results establish a novel biochemical property and a non-replicative biological role for a polymerase.
PMCID: PMC3177184  PMID: 21676997
5.  Crystal Structure of ORF12 from Lactococcus lactis Phage p2 Identifies a Tape Measure Protein Chaperone▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2008;191(3):728-734.
We report here the characterization of the nonstructural protein ORF12 of the virulent lactococcal phage p2, which belongs to the Siphoviridae family. ORF12 was produced as a soluble protein, which forms large oligomers (6- to 15-mers) in solution. Using anti-ORF12 antibodies, we have confirmed that ORF12 is not found in the virion structure but is detected in the second half of the lytic cycle, indicating that it is a late-expressed protein. The structure of ORF12, solved by single anomalous diffraction and refined at 2.9-Å resolution, revealed a previously unknown fold as well as the presence of a hydrophobic patch at its surface. Furthermore, crystal packing of ORF12 formed long spirals in which a hydrophobic, continuous crevice was identified. This crevice exhibited a repeated motif of aromatic residues, which coincided with the same repeated motif usually found in tape measure protein (TMP), predicted to form helices. A model of a complex between ORF12 and a repeated motif of the TMP of phage p2 (ORF14) was generated, in which the TMP helix fitted exquisitely in the crevice and the aromatic patches of ORF12. We suggest, therefore, that ORF12 might act as a chaperone for TMP hydrophobic repeats, maintaining TMP in solution during the tail assembly of the lactococcal siphophage p2.
PMCID: PMC2632072  PMID: 19047351

Results 1-5 (5)