Prophage-mediated defense against viral attack and viral counter-defense

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Temperate phages are common and prophages are abundant residents of sequenced bacterial genomes. Mycobacteriophages are viruses infecting mycobacterial hosts including Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium smegmatis , encompass substantial genetic diversity, and are commonly temperate. Characterization of ten Cluster N temperate mycobacteriophages reveals at least five distinct prophage-expressed viral defense systems that interfere with infection of lytic and temperate phages that are either closely-related (homotypic defense) or unrelated (heterotypic defense). Target specificity is unpredictable, ranging from a single target phage to one-third of those tested. The defense systems include a single-subunit restriction system, a heterotypic exclusion system, and a predicted (p)ppGpp synthetase, which blocks lytic phage growth, promotes bacterial survival, and enables efficient lysogeny. The predicted (p)ppGpp synthetase coded by the Phrann prophage defends against phage Tweety infection, but Tweety codes for a tetrapeptide repeat protein, gp54, that acts as a highly effective counter-defense system. Prophage-mediated viral defense offers an efficient mechanism for bacterial success in host-virus dynamics, and counter-defense promotes phage co-evolution.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalNature Microbiology
StatePublished - Jan 9 2017


  • Biology
  • Genomics
  • Microbiology
  • Virology

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