July 19, 2019  |  

Unlocking the mystery of the hard-to-sequence phage genome: PaP1 methylome and bacterial immunity.

Whole-genome sequencing is an important method to understand the genetic information, gene function, biological characteristics and survival mechanisms of organisms. Sequencing large genomes is very simple at present. However, we encountered a hard-to-sequence genome of Pseudomonas aeruginosa phage PaP1. Shotgun sequencing method failed to complete the sequence of this genome.After persevering for 10 years and going over three generations of sequencing techniques, we successfully completed the sequence of the PaP1 genome with a length of 91,715 bp. Single-molecule real-time sequencing results revealed that this genome contains 51?N-6-methyladenines and 152?N-4-methylcytosines. Three significant modified sequence motifs were predicted, but not all of the sites found in the genome were methylated in these motifs. Further investigations revealed a novel immune mechanism of bacteria, in which host bacteria can recognise and repel modified bases containing inserts in a large scale. This mechanism could be accounted for the failure of the shotgun method in PaP1 genome sequencing. This problem was resolved using the nfi- mutant of Escherichia coli DH5a as a host bacterium to construct a shotgun library.This work provided insights into the hard-to-sequence phage PaP1 genome and discovered a new mechanism of bacterial immunity. The methylome of phage PaP1 is responsible for the failure of shotgun sequencing and for bacterial immunity mediated by enzyme Endo V activity; this methylome also provides a valuable resource for future studies on PaP1 genome replication and modification, as well as on gene regulation and host interaction.


July 19, 2019  |  

Emergence of ebola virus escape variants in infected nonhuman primates treated with the MB-003 antibody cocktail.

MB-003, a plant-derived monoclonal antibody cocktail used effectively in treatment of Ebola virus infection in non-human primates, was unable to protect two of six animals when initiated 1 or 2 days post-infection. We characterized a mechanism of viral escape in one of the animals, after observation of two clusters of genomic mutations that resulted in five nonsynonymous mutations in the monoclonal antibody target sites. These mutations were linked to a reduction in antibody binding and later confirmed to be present in a viral isolate that was not neutralized in vitro. Retrospective evaluation of a second independent study allowed the identification of a similar case. Four SNPs in previously identified positions were found in this second fatality, suggesting that genetic drift could be a potential cause for treatment failure. These findings highlight the importance selecting different target domains for each component of the cocktail to minimize the potential for viral escape. Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

Covalent modification of bacteriophage T4 DNA inhibits CRISPR-Cas9.

The genomic DNAs of tailed bacteriophages are commonly modified by the attachment of chemical groups. Some forms of DNA modification are known to protect phage DNA from cleavage by restriction enzymes, but others are of unknown function. Recently, the CRISPR-Cas nuclease complexes were shown to mediate bacterial adaptive immunity by RNA-guided target recognition, raising the question of whether phage DNA modifications may also block attack by CRISPR-Cas9. We investigated phage T4 as a model system, where cytosine is replaced with glucosyl-hydroxymethylcytosine (glc-HMC). We first quantified the extent and distribution of covalent modifications in T4 DNA by single-molecule DNA sequencing and enzymatic probing. We then designed CRISPR spacer sequences targeting T4 and found that wild-type T4 containing glc-HMC was insensitive to attack by CRISPR-Cas9 but mutants with unmodified cytosine were sensitive. Phage with HMC showed only intermediate sensitivity. While this work was in progress, another group reported examples of heavily engineered CRISRP-Cas9 complexes that could, in fact, overcome the effects of T4 DNA modification, indicating that modifications can inhibit but do not always fully block attack.Bacteria were recently found to have a form of adaptive immunity, the CRISPR-Cas systems, which use nucleic acid pairing to recognize and cleave genomic DNA of invaders such as bacteriophage. Historic work with tailed phages has shown that phage DNA is often modified by covalent attachment of large chemical groups. Here we demonstrate that DNA modification in phage T4 inhibits attack by the CRISPR-Cas9 system. This finding provides insight into mechanisms of host-virus competition and also a new set of tools that may be useful in modulating the activity of CRISPR-Cas9 in genome engineering applications. Copyright © 2015 Bryson et al.


July 7, 2019  |  

Paenibacillus larvae-directed bacteriophage HB10c2 and its application in American Foulbrood-affected honey bee larvae.

Paenibacillus larvae is the causative agent of American foulbrood (AFB), the most serious honey bee brood bacterial disease. We isolated and characterized P. larvae-directed bacteriophages and developed criteria for safe phage therapy. Whole-genome analysis of a highly lytic virus of the family Siphoviridae (HB10c2) provided a detailed safety profile and uncovered its lysogenic nature and a putative beta-lactamase-like protein. To rate its antagonistic activity against the pathogens targeted and to specify potentially harmful effects on the bee population and the environment, P. larvae genotypes ERIC I to IV, representatives of the bee gut microbiota, and a broad panel of members of the order Bacillales were analyzed for phage HB10c2-induced lysis. Breeding assays with infected bee larvae revealed that the in vitro phage activity observed was not predictive of the real-life scenario and therapeutic efficacy. On the basis of the disclosed P. larvae-bacteriophage coevolution, we discuss the future prospects of AFB phage therapy. Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

First genome sequences of Achromobacter phages reveal new members of the N4 family.

Multi-resistant Achromobacter xylosoxidans has been recognized as an emerging pathogen causing nosocomially acquired infections during the last years. Phages as natural opponents could be an alternative to fight such infections. Bacteriophages against this opportunistic pathogen were isolated in a recent study. This study shows a molecular analysis of two podoviruses and reveals first insights into the genomic structure of Achromobacter phages so far.Growth curve experiments and adsorption kinetics were performed for both phages. Adsorption and propagation in cells were visualized by electron microscopy. Both phage genomes were sequenced with the PacBio RS II system based on single molecule, real-time (SMRT) technology and annotated with several bioinformatic tools. To further elucidate the evolutionary relationships between the phage genomes, a phylogenomic analysis was conducted using the genome Blast Distance Phylogeny approach (GBDP).In this study, we present the first detailed analysis of genome sequences of two Achromobacter phages so far. Phages JWAlpha and JWDelta were isolated from two different waste water treatment plants in Germany. Both phages belong to the Podoviridae and contain linear, double-stranded DNA with a length of 72329 bp and 73659 bp, respectively. 92 and 89 putative open reading frames were identified for JWAlpha and JWDelta, respectively, by bioinformatic analysis with several tools. The genomes have nearly the same organization and could be divided into different clusters for transcription, replication, host interaction, head and tail structure and lysis. Detailed annotation via protein comparisons with BLASTP revealed strong similarities to N4-like phages.Analysis of the genomes of Achromobacter phages JWAlpha and JWDelta and comparisons of different gene clusters with other phages revealed that they might be strongly related to other N4-like phages, especially of the Escherichia group. Although all these phages show a highly conserved genomic structure and partially strong similarities at the amino acid level, some differences could be identified. Those differences, e.g. the existence of specific genes for replication or host interaction in some N4-like phages, seem to be interesting targets for further examination of function and specific mechanisms, which might enlighten the mechanism of phage establishment in the host cell after infection.


July 7, 2019  |  

Novel giant siphovirus from Bacillus anthracis features unusual genome characteristics.

Here we present vB_BanS-Tsamsa, a novel temperate phage isolated from Bacillus anthracis, the agent responsible for anthrax infections in wildlife, livestock and humans. Tsamsa phage is a giant siphovirus (order Caudovirales), featuring a long, flexible and non-contractile tail of 440 nm (not including baseplate structure) and an isometric head of 82 nm in diameter. We induced Tsamsa phage in samples from two different carcass sites in Etosha National Park, Namibia. The Tsamsa phage genome is the largest sequenced Bacillus siphovirus, containing 168,876 bp and 272 ORFs. The genome features an integrase/recombinase enzyme, indicative of a temperate lifestyle. Among bacterial strains tested, the phage infected only certain members of the Bacillus cereus sensu lato group (B. anthracis, B. cereus and B. thuringiensis) and exhibited moderate specificity for B. anthracis. Tsamsa lysed seven out of 25 B. cereus strains, two out of five B. thuringiensis strains and six out of seven B. anthracis strains tested. It did not lyse B. anthracis PAK-1, an atypical strain that is also resistant to both gamma phage and cherry phage. The Tsamsa endolysin features a broader lytic spectrum than the phage host range, indicating possible use of the enzyme in Bacillus biocontrol.


July 7, 2019  |  

The odd one out: Bacillus ACT bacteriophage CP-51 exhibits unusual properties compared to related Spounavirinae W.Ph. and Bastille.

The Bacillus ACT group includes three important pathogenic species of Bacillus: anthracis, cereus and thuringiensis. We characterized three virulent bacteriophages, Bastille, W.Ph. and CP-51, that infect various strains of these three species. We have determined the complete genome sequences of CP-51, W.Ph. and Bastille, and their physical genome structures. The CP-51 genome sequence could only be obtained using a combination of conventional and second and third next generation sequencing technologies – illustrating the problems associated with sequencing highly modified DNA. We present evidence that the generalized transduction facilitated by CP-51 is independent of a specific genome structure, but likely due to sporadic packaging errors of the terminase. There is clear correlation of the genetic and morphological features of these phages validating their placement in the Spounavirinae subfamily (SPO1-related phages) of the Myoviridae. This study also provides tools for the development of phage-based diagnostics/therapeutics for this group of pathogens. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


July 7, 2019  |  

Next generation sequencing technologies and the changing landscape of phage genomics.

The dawn of next generation sequencing technologies has opened up exciting possibilities for whole genome sequencing of a plethora of organisms. The 2nd and 3rd generation sequencing technologies, based on cloning-free, massively parallel sequencing, have enabled the generation of a deluge of genomic sequences of both prokaryotic and eukaryotic origin in the last seven years. However, whole genome sequencing of bacterial viruses has not kept pace with this revolution, despite the fact that their genomes are orders of magnitude smaller in size compared with bacteria and other organisms. Sequencing phage genomes poses several challenges; (1) obtaining pure phage genomic material, (2) PCR amplification biases and (3) complex nature of their genetic material due to features such as methylated bases and repeats that are inherently difficult to sequence and assemble. Here we describe conclusions drawn from our efforts in sequencing hundreds of bacteriophage genomes from a variety of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria using Sanger, 454, Illumina and PacBio technologies. Based on our experience we propose several general considerations regarding sample quality, the choice of technology and a “blended approach” for generating reliable whole genome sequences of phages.


July 7, 2019  |  

Bacteriophage P70: unique morphology and unrelatedness to other Listeria bacteriophages.

Listeria monocytogenes is an important food-borne pathogen, and its bacteriophages find many uses in detection and biocontrol of its host. The novel broad-host-range virulent phage P70 has a unique morphology with an elongated capsid. Its genome sequence was determined by a hybrid sequencing strategy employing Sanger and PacBio techniques. The P70 genome contains 67,170 bp and 119 open reading frames (ORFs). Our analyses suggest that P70 represents an archetype of virus unrelated to other known Listeria bacteriophages.


July 7, 2019  |  

Acquisition of virulence factors in livestock-associated MRSA: Lysogenic conversion of CC398 strains by virulence gene-containing phages.

Staphylococcus aureus MRSA strains belonging to the clonal complex 398 (CC398) are highly prevalent in livestock and companion animals but may also cause serious infections in humans. CC398 strains in livestock usually do not possess well-known virulence factors that can be frequently found in other MRSA sequence types (ST). Since many staphylococcal virulence genes are residing on the genomes of temperate phages, the question arises why livestock-associated (LA-) CC398 strains are only rarely infected by those phages. We isolated and characterized four temperate phages (P240, P282, P630 and P1105) containing genes of the immune evasion cluster (IEC) and/or for the Panton-Valentine leucocidin (PVL). Sequence analysis of the phage genomes showed that they are closely related to known phages and that the DNA region encoding lysis proteins, virulence factors and the integrase exhibits numerous DNA repeats which may facilitate genomic rearrangements. All phages lysed and lysogenized LA-CC398 strains. Integration of IEC phage P282 was detected at ten sites of the hosts’ chromosome. The prophages were stably inherited in LA-CC398 and enterotoxin A, staphylokinase and PVL toxin were produced. The data demonstrate that lysogenic conversion of LA-CC398 strains by virulence-associated phages may occur and that new pathotypes may emerge by this mechanism.


July 7, 2019  |  

Characterization and genome comparisons of three Achromobacter phages of the family Siphoviridae.

In this study, we present the characterization and genomic data of three Achromobacter phages belonging to the family Siphoviridae. Phages 83-24, JWX and JWF were isolated from sewage samples in Paris and Braunschweig, respectively, and infect Achromobacter xylosoxidans, an emerging nosocomial pathogen in cystic fibrosis patients. Analysis of morphology and growth parameters revealed that phages 83-24 and JWX have similar properties, both have nearly the same head and tail measurements, and both have a burst size between 85 and 100 pfu/cell. In regard to morphological properties, JWF had a much longer and more flexible tail compared to other phages. The linear double-stranded DNAs of all three phages are terminally redundant and not circularly permutated. The complete nucleotide sequences consist of 81,541 bp for JWF, 49,714 bp for JWX and 48,216 bp for 83-24. Analysis of the genome sequences showed again that phages JWX and 83-24 are quite similar. Comparison to the GenBank database via BLASTN revealed partial similarities to Roseobacter phage RDJL phi1 and Burkholderia phage BcepGomr. In contrast, BLASTN analysis of the genome sequence of phage JWF revealed only few similarities to non-annotated prophage regions in different strains of Burkholderia and Mesorhizobium.


July 7, 2019  |  

Large-scale maps of variable infection efficiencies in aquatic Bacteroidetes phage-host model systems.

Microbes drive ecosystem functioning and their viruses modulate these impacts through mortality, gene transfer and metabolic reprogramming. Despite the importance of virus-host interactions and likely variable infection efficiencies of individual phages across hosts, such variability is seldom quantified. Here, we quantify infection efficiencies of 38 phages against 19 host strains in aquatic Cellulophaga (Bacteroidetes) phage-host model systems. Binary data revealed that some phages infected only one strain while others infected 17, whereas quantitative data revealed that efficiency of infection could vary 10 orders of magnitude, even among phages within one population. This provides a baseline for understanding and modeling intrapopulation host range variation. Genera specific host ranges were also informative. For example, the Cellulophaga Microviridae, showed a markedly broader intra-species host range than previously observed in Escherichia coli systems. Further, one phage genus, Cba41, was examined to investigate nonheritable changes in plating efficiency and burst size that depended on which host strain it most recently infected. While consistent with host modification of phage DNA, no differences in nucleotide sequence or DNA modifications were detected, leaving the observation repeatable, but the mechanism unresolved. Overall, this study highlights the importance of quantitatively considering replication variations in studies of phage-host interactions. © 2016 Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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