The use of bacteriophages as an effective phage therapy strategy faces significant challenges for controlling plant diseases in the phyllosphere. A number of factors must be taken into account when considering phage therapy for bacterial plant pathogens. Given that effective mitigation requires high populations of phage be present in close proximity to the pathogen at critical times in the disease cycle, the single biggest impediment that affects the efficacy of bacteriophages is their inability to persist on plant surfaces over time due to environmental factors. Inactivation by UV light is the biggest factor reducing bacteriophage persistence on plant surfaces. Therefore, designing strategies that minimize this effect are critical. For instance, application timing can be altered: instead of morning or afternoon application, phages can be applied late in the day to minimize the adverse effects of UV and extend the time high populations of phage persist on leaf surfaces. Protective formulations have been identified which prolong phage viability on the leaf surface; however, UV inactivation continues to be the major limiting factor in developing more effective bacteriophage treatments for bacterial plant pathogens. Other strategies, which have been developed to potentially increase persistence of phages on leaf surfaces, rely on establishing non-pathogenic or attenuated bacterial strains in the phyllosphere that are sensitive to the phage(s) specific to the target bacterium. We have also learned that selecting the correct phages for disease control is critical. This requires careful monitoring of bacterial strains in the field to minimize development of bacterial strains with resistance to the deployed bacteriophages. We also have data that indicate that selecting the phages based on in vivo assays may also be important when developing use for field application. Although bacteriophages have potential in biological control for plant disease control, there are major obstacles, which must be considered.
bacteriophage; biocontrol; phage; tomato
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
Prophage-encoded genes can provide a variety of benefits for their bacterial hosts. These beneficial genes are often contained within “moron” elements. Morons, thus termed as the insertion of the DNA encoding them adds “more on” the genome in which they are found, are independent transcriptional units disseminated among phage genomes through horizontal gene transfer. Morons have been identified in the majority of phage genomes and they have been found to play diverse roles in bacterial physiology. At present, we are only beginning to ascribe functions to the many proteins encoded within these ubiquitous genetic elements. Recently, we discovered that the first described moron-encoded protein, gp15 of phage HK97, is expressed from the HK97 prophage and functions as a superinfection exclusion protein, protecting its host from genome injection by other phages. This work and the growing body of data pertaining to other morons challenges the traditional view of phages as purely parasites of bacteria and emphasizes the symbiotic relationship between bacteria and prophages.
lysogen; lysogenic conversion; microbiome; phage HK97; phage moron; prophage; superinfection exclusion
We recently described the targeting of O104:H4 Escherichia coli in mouse gut by several virulent bacteriophages, highlighting several issues relating to virus-host interactions, which we discuss further in this addendum to the original publication.
bacteriophage infection; gut; permissivity; pseudolysogeny; phage therapy
The global interplay between bacteria and bacteriophages has generated many macromolecules useful in biotechnology, through the co-evolutionary see-saw of bacterial defense and viral counter-attack measures. Bacteria can protect themselves using abortive infection systems, which induce altruistic suicide in an infected cell and therefore protect the clonal population at the expense of the infected individual. Our recent paper describes how bacteriophage ΦTE successfully subverted the activity of a plasmid-borne abortive infection system. ΦTE evolved mimics of the small RNA antitoxin that naturally inhibits the active toxin component of this anti-viral mechanism. These mutant phages further manipulated the behavior of the host population, through transduction of the plasmid encoding the abortive infection system. Transductants thereby became enslaved by the abortive infection system, committing suicide in response to infection by the original phage population. In effect, the new host was infected by an “addictive altruism,” to the advantage of the resistant bacteriophage.
bacteriophage; toxin-antitoxin; abortive infection; mimicry; transduction; Pectobacterium atrosepticum; RNA pseudoknot; phage resistance
The DNA packaging motors of double-stranded DNA phages are models for analysis of all multi-molecular motors and for analysis of several fundamental aspects of biology, including early evolution, relationship of in vivo to in vitro biochemistry and targets for anti-virals. Work on phage DNA packaging motors both has produced and is producing dualities in the interpretation of data obtained by use of both traditional techniques and the more recently developed procedures of single-molecule analysis. The dualities include (1) reductive vs. accretive evolution, (2) rotation vs. stasis of sub-assemblies of the motor, (3) thermal ratcheting vs. power stroking in generating force, (4) complete motor vs. spark plug role for the packaging ATPase, (5) use of previously isolated vs. new intermediates for analysis of the intermediate states of the motor and (6) a motor with one cycle vs. a motor with two cycles. We provide background for these dualities, some of which are under-emphasized in the literature. We suggest directions for future research.
ATPase; DNA packaging; bacteriophage genetics; bacteriophage structure; biological motor; cryo-electron microscopy; single-molecule analysis
Bacteriophage genomes found in a range of bacterial pathogens encode a diverse array of virulence factors ranging from superantigens or pore forming lysins to numerous exotoxins. Recent studies have uncovered an entirely new class of bacterial virulence factors, called effector proteins or effector toxins, which are encoded within phage genomes that reside among several pathovars of Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica. These effector proteins have multiple domains resulting in proteins that can be multifunctional. The effector proteins encoded within phage genomes are translocated directly from the bacterial cytosol into their eukaryotic target cells by specialized bacterial type three secretion systems (T3SSs). In this review, we will give an overview of the different types of effector proteins encoded within phage genomes and examine their roles in bacterial pathogenesis.
Escherichia coli; Salmonella enterica; phage encoded exotoxins and effector proteins
This review highlights the main strategies available to control phage infection during large-scale milk fermentation by lactic acid bacteria. The topics that are emphasized include the factors influencing bacterial activities, the sources of phage contamination, the methods available to detect and quantify phages, as well as practical solutions to limit phage dispersion through an adapted factory design, the control of air flow, the use of adequate sanitizers, the restricted used of recycled products, and the selection and growth of bacterial cultures.
bacteriophage; dairy industry; milk fermentation; lactic acid bacteria; phage control strategy
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
The spread of natural or weaponized drug-resistant plague among humans is a credible high consequence threat to public health that demands the prompt introduction of alternatives to antibiotics such as bacteriophage. Early attempts to treat plague with phages in the 1920s–1930s were sometimes promising but mostly failed, purportedly due to insufficient knowledge of phage biology and poor experimental design. We recently reported the striking stability of plague diagnostic bacteriophages, their safety for animal use, propagation in vivo and partial protection of mice from deadly plague after a single injection of phage. In this addendum we reflect on that article, other recent publications and our unpublished data, and discuss the prospects of phage therapy against plague.
Yersinia pestis; multidrug-resistant plague; bacteriophages; phage safety; pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics; plague therapy
The dawn of next generation sequencing technologies has opened up exciting possibilities for whole genome sequencing of a plethora of organisms. The 2nd and 3rd generation sequencing technologies, based on cloning-free, massively parallel sequencing, have enabled the generation of a deluge of genomic sequences of both prokaryotic and eukaryotic origin in the last seven years. However, whole genome sequencing of bacterial viruses has not kept pace with this revolution, despite the fact that their genomes are orders of magnitude smaller in size compared with bacteria and other organisms. Sequencing phage genomes poses several challenges; (1) obtaining pure phage genomic material, (2) PCR amplification biases and (3) complex nature of their genetic material due to features such as methylated bases and repeats that are inherently difficult to sequence and assemble. Here we describe conclusions drawn from our efforts in sequencing hundreds of bacteriophage genomes from a variety of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria using Sanger, 454, Illumina and PacBio technologies. Based on our experience we propose several general considerations regarding sample quality, the choice of technology and a “blended approach” for generating reliable whole genome sequences of phages.
bacteriophage genome; Illumina HiSeq; Roche 454; PacBio; Sanger sequencing; Hybrid genome assembly; SISPA; Scaffolding
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