Although the study of phage infection has a long history and catalyzed much of our current understanding in bacterial genetics, molecular biology, evolution and ecology, it seems that microbiologists have only just begun to explore the intricacy of phage–host interactions. In a recent manuscript by Cenens et al. we found molecular and genetic support for pseudolysogenic development in the Salmonella Typhimurium–phage P22 model system. More specifically, we observed the existence of phage carrier cells harboring an episomal P22 element that segregated asymmetrically upon subsequent divisions. Moreover, a newly discovered P22 ORFan protein (Pid) able to derepress a metabolic operon of the host (dgo) proved to be specifically expressed in these phage carrier cells. In this addendum we expand on our view regarding pseudolysogeny and its effects on bacterial and phage biology.
Salmonella Typhimurium; phage P22; phage carrier state; phage–host interactions; pseudolysogeny
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
The role of lytic bacteriophages in preventing cross contamination of produce has not been evaluated. A cocktail of three lytic phages specific for E. coli O157:H7 (EcoShield™) or a control (phosphate buffered saline, PBS) was applied to lettuce by either; (1) immersion of lettuce in 500 ml of EcoShield™ 8.3 log PFU/ml or 9.8 log PFU/ml for up to 2 min before inoculation with E. coli O157:H7; (2) spray-application of EcoShield™ (9.3 log PFU/ml) to lettuce after inoculation with E. coli O157:H7 (4.10 CFU/cm2) following exposure to 50 μg/ml chlorine for 30 sec. After immersion studies, lettuce was spot-inoculated with E. coli O157:H7 (2.38 CFU/cm2). Phage-treated, inoculated lettuce pieces were stored at 4°C for and analyzed for E. coli O157:H7 populations for up to 7 d. Immersion of lettuce in 9.8 log PFU/ml EcoShield™ for 2 min significantly (p < 0.05) reduced E. coli O157:H7 populations after 24 h when stored at 4°C compared with controls. Immersion of lettuce in suspensions containing high concentrations of EcoShield™ (9.8 log PFU/ml) resulted in the deposition of high concentrations (7.8 log log PFU/cm2) of bacteriophages on the surface of fresh cut lettuce, potentially contributing to the efficacy of the lytic phages on lettuce. Spraying phages on to inoculated fresh cut lettuce after being washed in hypochlorite solution was significantly more effective in reducing E. coli O157:H7 populations (2.22 log CFU/cm2) on day 0 compared with control treatments (4.10 log CFU/cm2). Both immersion and spray treatments provided protection from E. coli O157:H7 contamination on lettuce, but spray application of lytic bacteriophages to lettuce was more effective in immediately reducing E. coli O157:H7 populations fresh cut lettuce.
bacteriophages; E. coli O157:H7; lettuce; processing
The effect of a bacteriophage cocktail (EcoShield™) that is specific against Escherichia coli O157:H7 was evaluated against a nalidixic acid-resistant enterohemorrhagic E. coli O157:H7 RM4407 (EHEC) strain on leafy greens stored under either (1) ambient air or (2) modified atmosphere (MA; 5% O2/35% CO2/60% N2). Pieces (~2 × 2 cm2) of leafy greens (lettuce and spinach) inoculated with 4.5 log CFU/cm2 EHEC were sprayed with EcoShield™ (6.5 log PFU/cm2). Samples were stored at 4 or 10°C for up to 15 d. On spinach, the level of EHEC declined by 2.38 and 2.49 log CFU/cm2 at 4 and 10°C, respectively, 30 min after phage application (p ≤ 0.05). EcoShield™ was also effective in reducing EHEC on the surface of green leaf lettuce stored at 4°C by 2.49 and 3.28 log units in 30 min and 2 h, respectively (p ≤ 0.05).
At 4°C under atmospheric air, the phage cocktail significantly (p ≤ 0.05) lowered the EHEC counts in one day by 1.19, 3.21 and 3.25 log CFU/cm2 on spinach, green leaf and romaine lettuce, respectively compared with control (no bacteriophage) treatments. When stored under MA at 4°C, phages reduced (p ≤ 0.05) EHEC populations by 2.18, 3.50 and 3.13 log CFU/cm2, on spinach, green leaf and romaine lettuce. At 10°C, EHEC reductions under atmospheric air storage were 1.99, 3.90 and 3.99 log CFU/cm2 (p ≤ 0.05), while population reductions under MA were 3.08, 3.89 and 4.34 logs on spinach, green leaf and romaine lettuce, respectively, compared with controls (p ≤ 0.05). The results of this study showed that bacteriophages were effective in reducing the levels of E. coli O157:H7 on fresh leafy produce, and that the reduction was further improved when produce was stored under the MA conditions.
E. coli O157:H7; bacteriophage; modified atmosphere packaging; MAP; leafy green
Bacteriophage (phage) are among the most diverse and abundant life forms on Earth. Studies have recently used phage diversity to identify novel antimicrobial peptides and proteins. We showed that one such phage protein, Staphylococcus aureus (Sau) phage G1 gp67, inhibits cell growth in Sau by an unusual mechanism. Gp67 binds to the host RNA polymerase (RNAP) through an interaction with the promoter specificity σ subunit, but unlike many other σ-binding phage proteins, gp67 does not disrupt transcription at most promoters. Rather, gp67 prevents binding of another RNAP domain, the α-C-terminal domain, to upstream A/T-rich elements required for robust transcription at rRNA promoters. Here, we discuss additional biochemical insights on gp67, how phage promoters escape the inhibitory function of gp67, and methodological advancements that were foundational to our work.
Staphylococcus aureus; RNA polymerase; bacteriophage; gp67; transcription
Soil-based root applications and attenuated bacterial strains were evaluated as means to enhance bacteriophage persistence on plants for bacterial disease control. In addition, the systemic nature of phage applied to tomato roots was also evaluated. Several experiments were conducted applying either single phages or phage mixtures specific for Ralstonia solanacearum, Xanthomonas perforans or X. euvesicatoria to soil surrounding tomato plants and measuring the persistence and translocation of the phages over time. In general, all phages persisted in the roots of treated plants and were detected in stems and leaves; although phage level varied and persistence in stems and leaves was at a much lower level compared with persistence in roots. Bacterial wilt control was typically best if the phage or phage mixtures were applied to the soil surrounding tomatoes at the time of inoculation, less effective if applied 3 days before inoculation, and ineffective if applied 3 days after inoculation. The use of an attenuated X. perforans strain was also evaluated to improve the persistence of phage populations on tomato leaf surfaces. In greenhouse and field experiments, foliar applications of an attenuated mutant X. perforans 91-118:∆OPGH strain prior to phage applications significantly improved phage persistence on tomato foliage compared with untreated tomato foliage. Both the soil-based bacteriophage delivery and the use of attenuated bacterial strains improved bacteriophage persistence on respective root and foliar tissues, with evidence of translocation with soil-based bacteriophage applications. Both strategies could lead to improved control of bacterial pathogens on plants.
bacteriophage; biocontrol; phage; tomato
The conventional and most accepted method of measuring the lytic activity of a phage against its bacterial host is the plaque assay. This method is laborious, time consuming and expensive, especially in high throughput analyses where multiple phage-bacterial interactions are required to be monitored simultaneously. It can also vary considerably with the experimenter and by the growth and plating conditions. Alternatively, the lytic activity can be measured indirectly by following the decrease in optical density of the bacterial cultures owing to lysis. Here we describe an automated, high throughput, indirect liquid lysis assay to evaluate phage growth using the OmniLogTM system. The OmniLogTM system uses redox chemistry, employing cell respiration as a universal reporter. During active growth of bacteria, cellular respiration reduces a tetrazolium dye and produces a color change that is measured in an automated fashion. On the other hand, successful phage infection and subsequent growth of the phage in its host bacterium results in reduced bacterial growth and respiration and a concomitant reduction in color. Here we show that microtiter plate wells inoculated with Bacillus anthracis and phage show decreased or no growth, compared with the wells containing bacteria only or phage resistant bacteria plus phage. Also, we show differences in the kinetics of bacterial growth and the timing of appearance of phage resistant bacteria in the presence of individual phages or a cocktail of B. anthracis specific phages. The results of these experiments indicate that the OmniLogTM system could be used reliably for indirectly measuring phage growth in high throughput host range and phage and antibiotics combination studies.
Bacillus anthracis; OmniLogTM; bacteriophage; in vitro lytic assay; phage
Five Y. pestis bacteriophages obtained from various sources were characterized to determine their biological properties, including their taxonomic classification, host range and genomic diversity. Four of the phages (YpP-G, Y, R and YpsP-G) belong to the Podoviridae family, and the fifth phage (YpsP-PST) belongs to the Myoviridae family, of the order Caudovirales comprising of double-stranded DNA phages. The genomes of the four Podoviridae phages were fully sequenced and found to be almost identical to each other and to those of two previously characterized Y. pestis phages Yepe2 and φA1122. However, despite their genomic homogeneity, they varied in their ability to lyse Y. pestis and Y. pseudotuberculosis strains. The five phages were combined to yield a “phage cocktail” (tentatively designated “YPP-100”) capable of lysing the 59 Y. pestis strains in our collection. YPP-100 was examined for its ability to decontaminate three different hard surfaces (glass, gypsum board and stainless steel) experimentally contaminated with a mixture of three genetically diverse Y. pestis strains CO92, KIM and 1670G. Five minutes of exposure to YPP-100 preparations containing phage concentrations of ca. 109, 108 and 107 PFU/mL completely eliminated all viable Y. pestis cells from all three surfaces, but a few viable cells were recovered from the stainless steel coupons treated with YPP-100 diluted to contain ca. 106 PFU/mL. However, even that highly diluted preparation significantly (p = < 0.05) reduced Y. pestis levels by ≥ 99.97%. Our data support the idea that Y. pestis phages may be useful for decontaminating various hard surfaces naturally- or intentionally-contaminated with Y. pestis.
bacteriophage; phage; Yersinia pestis; surface decontamination
Foods contaminated with Escherichia coli O157:H7 cause more than 63,000 foodborne illnesses in the United States every year, resulting in a significant economic impact on medical costs and product liabilities. Efforts to reduce contamination with E. coli O157:H7 have largely focused on washing, application of various antibacterial chemicals, and gamma-irradiation, each of which has practical and environmental drawbacks. A relatively recent, environmentally-friendly approach proposed for eliminating or significantly reducing E. coli O157:H7 contamination of foods is the use of lytic bacteriophages as biocontrol agents. We found that EcoShield™, a commercially available preparation composed of three lytic bacteriophages specific for E. coli O157:H7, significantly (p < 0.05) reduced the levels of the bacterium in experimentally contaminated beef by ≥ 94% and in lettuce by 87% after a five minute contact time. The reduced levels of bacteria were maintained for at least one week at refrigerated temperatures. However, the one-time application of EcoShield™ did not protect the foods from recontamination with E. coli O157:H7. Our results demonstrate that EcoShield™ is effective in significantly reducing contamination of beef and lettuce with E. coli O157:H7, but does not protect against potential later contamination due to, for example, unsanitary handling of the foods post processing.
EcoShield™; Escherichia coli O157:H7; bacteriophage; beef; food safety; genomics; ground beef; lettuce; phage; phylogeny
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
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
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
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
Reporter bacteriophages for detection of pathogenic bacteria offer fast and sensitive screening for live bacterial targets. We present a novel strategy employing a gene encoding a hyperthermophilic enzyme, permitting the use of various substrates and assay formats. The celB gene from the hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus specifying an extremely thermostable β-glycosidase was inserted into the genome of the broad host range, virulent Listeria phage A511 by homologous recombination. It is expressed at the end of the infectious cycle, under control of the strong major capsid gene promoter Pcps. Infection of Listeria with A511::celB results in strong gene expression and synthesis of a fully functional β-glycosidase. The reporter phage was tested for detection of viable Listeria cells with different chromogenic, fluorescent or chemiluminescent substrates. The best signal-to-noise ratio and sufficiently high sensitivity was obtained using the inexpensive substrate 4-Methylumbelliferyl-α-D-Glucopyranoside (MUG). The reporter phage assay is simple to perform and can be completed in about 6 h. Phage infection, as well as the subsequent temperature shift, enzymatic substrate conversion and signal recordings are independent from each other and may be performed separately. The detection limit for viable Listeria monocytogenes in an assay format adapted to 96-well microplates was 7.2 × 102 cells per well, corresponding to 6 × 103 cfu per ml in suspension. Application of the A511::celB protocol to Listeria in spiked chocolate milk and salmon demonstrate the usefulness of the reporter phage for rapid detection of low numbers of the bacteria (10 cfu/g or less) in contaminated foods.
Listeria monocytogenes; reporter bacteriophage; Pyrococcus furiosus; glycosidase; celB; rapid methods; food safety
A lytic phage, designated as ϕTMA, was isolated from a Japanese hot spring using Thermus thermophilus HB27 as an indicator strain. Electron microscopic examination showed that ϕTMA had an icosahedral head and a contractile tail. The circular double-stranded DNA sequence of ϕTMA was 151,483 bp in length, and its organization was essentially same as that of ϕYS40 except that the ϕTMA genome contained genes for a pair of transposase and resolvase, and a gene for a serine to asparagine substituted ortholog of the protein involved in the initiation of the ϕYS40 genomic DNA synthesis. The different host specificities of ϕTMA and ϕYS40 could be explained by the sequence differences in the C-terminal regions of their distal tail fiber proteins. The ΔpilA knockout strains of T. thermophilus showed simultaneous loss of sensitivity to their cognate phages, pilus structure, twitching motility and competence for natural transformation, thus suggesting that the phage infection required the intact host pili. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis analysis of the ϕTMA and ϕYS40 genomes revealed that the length of their DNA exceeded 200 kb, indicating that the terminal redundancy is more than 30% of the closed circular form. Proteomic analysis of the ϕTMA virion using a combination of N-terminal sequencing and mass spectrometric analysis of peptide fragments suggested that the maturation of several proteins involved in the phage assembly process was mediated by a trypsin-like protease. The gene order of the phage structural proteins was also discussed.
Thermus thermophilus; myovirus; genomics; antagonistic coevolution; proteomics
Bacteriophage T4 was visualized using atomic force microscopy (AFM). The images were consistent with, and complementary to electron microscopy images. Head heights of dried particles containing DNA were about 75 nm in length and 60 nm in width, or about 100 nm and 85 nm respectively when scanned in fluid. The diameter of hydrated tail assemblies was 28 nm and their lengths about 130 nm. Seven to eight pronounced, right-handed helical turns with a pitch of 15 nm were evident on the tail assemblies. At the distal end of the tail was a knob shaped mass, presumably the baseplate. The opposite end, where the tail assembly joins the head, was tapered and connected to the portal complex, which was also visible. Phage that had ejected their DNA revealed the internal injection tube of the tail assembly. Heads disrupted by osmotic shock yielded boluses of closely packed DNA that unraveled slowly to expose threads composed of multiple twisted strands of nucleic acid. Assembly errors resulted in the appearance of several percent of the phage exhibiting two rather than one tail assemblies that were consistently oriented at about 72° to one another. No pattern of capsomeres was visible on native T4 heads. A mutant that is negative for the surface proteins hoc and soc, however, clearly revealed the icosahedral arrangement of ring shaped capsomeres on the surface. The hexameric rings have an outside diameter of about 14 nm, a pronounced central depression, and a center-to-center distance of 15 nm. Phage collapsed on cell surfaces appeared to be dissolving, possibly into the cell membrane.
DNA; virus; mutants; hoc; soc; capsomeres
We identified 30 actual or presumptive “bacteriophage” references dating between the years 1895 and 1917 and have further explored one of the oldest: Hankin's 1896 study of a bactericidal action associated with the waters of the Ganges and Jumna rivers in India. As Hankin's work took place approximately 20 years prior to the actual discovery of bacteriophages, no claims were made as to a possible phage nature of the phenomenon. Here we suggest that it may be imprudent to assume nevertheless that it represents an early observation of phagemediated bactericidal activity. Our principal argument is that the antibacterial aspect of these river waters was able to retain full potency following “heating” for one-half hour in hermetically sealed tubes, where heating in “open” tubes resulted in loss of antibacterial activity. We also suggest that environmental phage counts would have had to have been unusually high—greater than 106/ml impacting a single host strain—to achieve the rates of bacterial loss that Hankin observed.
Ganges River; history; natural bactericidal activity; presumptive early phage references
CRISPR systems, as bacterial defenses against phages, logically must display in their functioning a sequence of at least three major steps. These, in order of occurrence, are “facilitation,” adaptation and interference, where the facilitation step is the main issue considered in this commentary. Interference is the blocking of phage infections as mediated in part by CRISPR spacer sequences. Adaptation, at least as narrowly defined, is the acquisition of these spacer sequences by CRISPR loci. Facilitation, in turn and as defined here, corresponds to phage-naïve bacteria avoiding death follow first-time exposure to specific phages, where bacterial survival of course is necessary for subsequent spacer acquisition. Working from a variety of perspectives, I argue that a requirement for facilitation suggests that CRISPR systems may play secondary rather than primary roles as bacterial defenses, particularly against more virulent phages. So considered, the role of facilitation in CRISPR functioning could be viewed as analogous to the building, in vertebrate animals, of adaptive immunity upon an immunological foundation comprised of mechanisms that are both more generally acting and innate.
adaptation; adaptive immunity; CRISPR; innate immunity; restriction-modification