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Appl Environ Microbiol. Nov 1997; 63(11): 4370–4376.
PMCID: PMC168757

Bacteriophage-triggered defense systems: phage adaptation and design improvements.


A novel bacteriophage defense system, based on an inducible suicide gene, was challenged with a lactococcal bacteriophage to investigate the potential for phage adaptation. The defense system was encoded by pTRK414H, a high-copy-number replicon encoding a tightly regulated phi 31p trigger promoter fused to the lethal LlaIR+ restriction endonuclease cassette. Repeated transfers of Lactococcus lactis NCK690(pTRK414H) in the presence of phi 31 selected for phage phi 31 derivatives which were markedly less sensitive to phi 31p-LlaIR(+)-encoded restriction than the parental phage, phi 31. The efficiency of plaquing (EOP) on L. lactis NCK690(pTRK414H) was 10(-4) for phi 31 versus 0.4 for the derived phages. The mutant phages remained fully sensitive to LlaIR+ restriction, suggesting an alteration in the recognition or firing of the phi 31p promoter. Sequencing over the promoter region in four mutant phages revealed the identical C-to-A transversion, generating a Phe-to-Leu substitution, in a transcriptional activator of the phi 31p promoter, designated ORF2. The mutant phages were analyzed for their ability to induce the native phi 31p promoter element fused to a lacZst reporter gene. Compared to the parental phage, phi 31, lower levels of beta-galactosidase activity were induced throughout the lytic cycle, indicating that the strength at which the mutant phages activated the phi 31p promoter was altered. Based on these observations, improvements were made in promoter strength and restriction activity in an attempt to elevate the effectiveness of the phage-triggered suicide system. When the phi 31p-LlaIR+ cassette was paired with other abortive defense systems, Per31 and AbiA, the EOP of phi 31 was reduced to < 10(-10) and the level of phage in the culture was lowered below the detection limits of the assay.

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Selected References

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