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PLoS Genet. 2012;8(10):e1003023. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003023. Epub 2012 Oct 18.

Viral evasion of a bacterial suicide system by RNA-based molecular mimicry enables infectious altruism.

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1
Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Abstract

Abortive infection, during which an infected bacterial cell commits altruistic suicide to destroy the replicating bacteriophage and protect the clonal population, can be mediated by toxin-antitoxin systems such as the Type III protein-RNA toxin-antitoxin system, ToxIN. A flagellum-dependent bacteriophage of the Myoviridae, ΦTE, evolved rare mutants that "escaped" ToxIN-mediated abortive infection within Pectobacterium atrosepticum. Wild-type ΦTE encoded a short sequence similar to the repetitive nucleotide sequence of the RNA antitoxin, ToxI, from ToxIN. The ΦTE escape mutants had expanded the number of these "pseudo-ToxI" genetic repeats and, in one case, an escape phage had "hijacked" ToxI from the plasmid-borne toxIN locus, through recombination. Expression of the pseudo-ToxI repeats during ΦTE infection allowed the phage to replicate, unaffected by ToxIN, through RNA-based molecular mimicry. This is the first example of a non-coding RNA encoded by a phage that evolves by selective expansion and recombination to enable viral suppression of a defensive bacterial suicide system. Furthermore, the ΦTE escape phages had evolved enhanced capacity to transduce replicons expressing ToxIN, demonstrating virus-mediated horizontal transfer of genetic altruism.

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PMID:
23109916
PMCID:
PMC3475682
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pgen.1003023
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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