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Microbiology. 2007 Jun;153(Pt 6):1790-1798. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.2006/003533-0.

Characterization of the integrated filamentous phage Pf5 and its involvement in small-colony formation.

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Department of Medical Microbiology and Infection Control, VU medical centre, van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School and Department of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Bacteriophages play an important role in bacterial virulence and phenotypic variation. It has been shown that filamentous bacteriophage Pf4 of Pseudomonas aeruginosa strain PAO1 mediates the formation of small-colony variants (SCVs) in biofilms. This morphology type is associated with parameters of poor lung function in cystic fibrosis patients, and SCVs are often more resistant to antibiotics than wild-type cells. P. aeruginosa strain PA14 also contains a Pf1-like filamentous prophage, which is designated Pf5, and is highly homologous to Pf4. Since P. aeruginosa PA14 produces SCVs very efficiently in biofilms grown in static cultures, the role of Pf5 in SCV formation under these conditions was investigated. The presence of the Pf5 replicative form in total DNA from SCVs and wild-type cells was detected, but it was not possible to detect the Pf5 major coat protein by immunoblot analysis in PA14 SCV cultures. This suggests that the Pf5 filamentous phage is not present at high densities in the PA14 SCVs. Consistent with these results, we were unable to detect coaB expression in SCV cultures and SCV colonies. The SCV variants formed under static conditions were not linked to Pf5 phage activity, since Pf5 insertion mutants with decreased or no production of the Pf5 RF produced SCVs as efficiently as the wild-type strain. Finally, analysis of 48 clinical P. aeruginosa isolates showed no association between the presence of Pf1-like filamentous phages and the ability to form SCVs under static conditions; this suggests that filamentous phages are generally not involved in the emergence of P. aeruginosa SCVs.

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