Bacteriophage P22 SieA-mediated superinfection exclusion

mBio. 2024 Feb 14;15(2):e0216923. doi: 10.1128/mbio.02169-23. Epub 2024 Jan 18.


Many temperate phages encode prophage-expressed functions that interfere with superinfection of the host bacterium by external phages. Salmonella phage P22 has four such systems that are expressed from the prophage in a lysogen that are encoded by the c2 (repressor), gtrABC, sieA, and sieB genes. Here we report that the P22-encoded SieA protein is necessary and sufficient for exclusion by the SieA system and that it is an inner membrane protein that blocks DNA injection by P22 and its relatives, but has no effect on infection by other tailed phage types. The P22 virion injects its DNA through the host cell membranes and periplasm via a conduit assembled from three "ejection proteins" after their release from the virion. Phage P22 mutants that overcome the SieA block were isolated, and they have amino acid changes in the C-terminal regions of the gene 16 and 20 encoded ejection proteins. Three different single-amino acid changes in these proteins are required to obtain nearly full resistance to SieA. Hybrid P22 phages that have phage HK620 ejection protein genes are also partially resistant to SieA. There are three sequence types of extant phage-encoded SieA proteins that are less than 30% identical to one another, yet comparison of two of these types found no differences in phage target specificity. Our data strongly suggest a model in which the inner membrane protein SieA interferes with the assembly or function of the periplasmic gp20 and membrane-bound gp16 DNA delivery conduit.IMPORTANCEThe ongoing evolutionary battle between bacteria and the viruses that infect them is a critical feature of bacterial ecology on Earth. Viruses can kill bacteria by infecting them. However, when their chromosomes are integrated into a bacterial genome as a prophage, viruses can also protect the host bacterium by expressing genes whose products defend against infection by other viruses. This defense property is called "superinfection exclusion." A significant fraction of bacteria harbor prophages that encode such protective systems, and there are many different molecular strategies by which superinfection exclusion is mediated. This report is the first to describe the mechanism by which bacteriophage P22 SieA superinfection exclusion protein protects its host bacterium from infection by other P22-like phages. The P22 prophage-encoded inner membrane SieA protein prevents infection by blocking transport of superinfecting phage DNA across the inner membrane during injection.

Keywords: P22; SieA; bacteriophage; ejection proteins; superinfection exclusion.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Bacteriophage P22* / genetics
  • Bacteriophages* / genetics
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Prophages / genetics
  • Prophages / metabolism
  • Superinfection*


  • Membrane Proteins
  • DNA
  • Amino Acids