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Nature. 2010 Oct 21;467(7318):982-5. doi: 10.1038/nature09469. Epub 2010 Oct 13.

Satellite phage TLCφ enables toxigenic conversion by CTX phage through dif site alteration.

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Molecular Genetics Laboratory, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, Dhaka-1212, Bangladesh.


Bacterial chromosomes often carry integrated genetic elements (for example plasmids, transposons, prophages and islands) whose precise function and contribution to the evolutionary fitness of the host bacterium are unknown. The CTXφ prophage, which encodes cholera toxin in Vibrio cholerae, is known to be adjacent to a chromosomally integrated element of unknown function termed the toxin-linked cryptic (TLC). Here we report the characterization of a TLC-related element that corresponds to the genome of a satellite filamentous phage (TLC-Knφ1), which uses the morphogenesis genes of another filamentous phage (fs2φ) to form infectious TLC-Knφ1 phage particles. The TLC-Knφ1 phage genome carries a sequence similar to the dif recombination sequence, which functions in chromosome dimer resolution using XerC and XerD recombinases. The dif sequence is also exploited by lysogenic filamentous phages (for example CTXφ) for chromosomal integration of their genomes. Bacterial cells defective in the dimer resolution often show an aberrant filamentous cell morphology. We found that acquisition and chromosomal integration of the TLC-Knφ1 genome restored a perfect dif site and normal morphology to V. cholerae wild-type and mutant strains with dif(-) filamentation phenotypes. Furthermore, lysogeny of a dif(-) non-toxigenic V. cholerae with TLC-Knφ1 promoted its subsequent toxigenic conversion through integration of CTXφ into the restored dif site. These results reveal a remarkable level of cooperative interactions between multiple filamentous phages in the emergence of the bacterial pathogen that causes cholera.

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