Bacteriophage crosstalk: coordination of prophage induction by trans-acting antirepressors

PLoS Genet. 2011 Jun;7(6):e1002149. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002149. Epub 2011 Jun 23.

Abstract

Many species of bacteria harbor multiple prophages in their genomes. Prophages often carry genes that confer a selective advantage to the bacterium, typically during host colonization. Prophages can convert to infectious viruses through a process known as induction, which is relevant to the spread of bacterial virulence genes. The paradigm of prophage induction, as set by the phage Lambda model, sees the process initiated by the RecA-stimulated self-proteolysis of the phage repressor. Here we show that a large family of lambdoid prophages found in Salmonella genomes employs an alternative induction strategy. The repressors of these phages are not cleaved upon induction; rather, they are inactivated by the binding of small antirepressor proteins. Formation of the complex causes the repressor to dissociate from DNA. The antirepressor genes lie outside the immunity region and are under direct control of the LexA repressor, thus plugging prophage induction directly into the SOS response. GfoA and GfhA, the antirepressors of Salmonella prophages Gifsy-1 and Gifsy-3, each target both of these phages' repressors, GfoR and GfhR, even though the latter proteins recognize different operator sites and the two phages are heteroimmune. In contrast, the Gifsy-2 phage repressor, GtgR, is insensitive to GfoA and GfhA, but is inactivated by an antirepressor from the unrelated Fels-1 prophage (FsoA). This response is all the more surprising as FsoA is under the control of the Fels-1 repressor, not LexA, and plays no apparent role in Fels-1 induction, which occurs via a Lambda CI-like repressor cleavage mechanism. The ability of antirepressors to recognize non-cognate repressors allows coordination of induction of multiple prophages in polylysogenic strains. Identification of non-cleavable gfoR/gtgR homologues in a large variety of bacterial genomes (including most Escherichia coli genomes in the DNA database) suggests that antirepression-mediated induction is far more common than previously recognized.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacteriophage lambda / genetics*
  • Bacteriophage lambda / pathogenicity
  • Bacteriophage lambda / physiology
  • Blotting, Western
  • Chromatography, Gel
  • Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assay
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Protein Binding
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism*
  • Salmonella typhimurium / genetics
  • Salmonella typhimurium / virology*
  • Serine Endopeptidases / genetics
  • Serine Endopeptidases / metabolism
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism*
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Transduction, Genetic
  • Viral Regulatory and Accessory Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Regulatory and Accessory Proteins / metabolism*
  • Virus Activation*

Substances

  • Bacterial Proteins
  • LexA protein, Bacteria
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Trans-Activators
  • Viral Regulatory and Accessory Proteins
  • phage repressor proteins
  • Serine Endopeptidases