Genetically distant bacteriophages select for unique genomic changes in Enterococcus faecalis

Microbiologyopen. 2022 Apr;11(2):e1273. doi: 10.1002/mbo3.1273.

Abstract

The human microbiota harbors diverse bacterial and bacteriophage (phage) communities. Bacteria evolve to overcome phage infection, thereby driving phage evolution to counter bacterial resistance. Understanding how phages select for genetic alterations in medically relevant bacteria is important as phages become established biologics for the treatment of multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacterial infections. Before phages can be widely used as standalone or combination antibacterial therapies, we must obtain a deep understanding of the molecular mechanisms of phage infection and how host bacteria alter their genomes to become resistant. We performed coevolution experiments using a single Enterococcus faecalis strain and two distantly related phages to determine how phage pressure impacts the evolution of the E. faecalis genome. Whole-genome sequencing of E. faecalis following continuous exposure to these two phages revealed mutations previously demonstrated to be essential for phage infection. We also identified mutations in genes previously unreported to be associated with phage infection in E. faecalis. Intriguingly, there was only one shared mutation in the E. faecalis genome that was selected by both phages tested, demonstrating that infection by two genetically distinct phages selects for diverse variants. This knowledge serves as the basis for the continued study of E. faecalis genome evolution during phage infection and can be used to inform the design of future therapeutics, such as phage cocktails, intended to target MDR E. faecalis.

Keywords: Enterococcus faecalis; bacteriophages; coevolution; comparative genomics.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Bacteriophages* / genetics
  • Enterococcus faecalis* / genetics
  • Genome, Viral
  • Genomics
  • Humans

Substances

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents