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Microbiology. 2007 Dec;153(Pt 12):4098-4110. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.2007/011205-0.

Identification of multiple integration sites for Stx-phage Phi24B in the Escherichia coli genome, description of a novel integrase and evidence for a functional anti-repressor.

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Microbiology Research Group, Division of Integrative Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7ZB, UK.


The key virulence factor in Shiga-toxigenic Escherichia coli is the expression of Shiga toxin (Stx), which is conferred by Stx-encoding temperate lambdoid phages (Stx-phages). It had been assumed that Stx-phages would behave similarly to lambda phage. However, contrary to the lambda superinfection immunity model, it has been demonstrated that double lysogens can be produced with the Stx-phage Phi24(B). Here, the Phi24(B) integrase gene is identified, and the preferred site of integration defined. Although an E. coli int gene was identified close to the Phi24(B) integration site, it was shown not to be involved in the phage integration event. An additional six potential integration sites were identified in the E. coli genome, and three of these were confirmed experimentally. Two of the other potential sites lie within genes predicted to be essential to E. coli and are therefore unlikely to support phage integration. A Phi24(B) gene, possessing similarity to the well-characterized P22 ant gene, was identified. RT-PCR was used to demonstrate that ant is transcribed in a Phi24(B) E. coli lysogen, and expression of an anti-repressor is the likely explanation for the absence of immunity to superinfection. Demonstration of the ability of Phi24(B) to form multiple lysogens has two potentially serious impacts. First, multiple integrated prophages will drive the evolution of bacterial pathogens as novel Stx-phages emerge following intracellular mutation/recombination events. Second, multiple copies of the stx gene may lead to an increase in toxin production and consequently increased virulence.

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