Phage-host interactions are more complicated than most laboratory studies suggest

March 30, 2018, Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory
Phage-host Interactions are More Complicated than most Laboratory Studies Suggest
Researchers studied molecular data on phages to discover how the viruses affect environmentally important bacteria in nature. Credit: Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory

For years, scientists have experimented with phages—the viruses that infect bacteria—to learn how they change their host. Because such studies are difficult to accomplish in the wild, most have focused on viruses and host cells tailored for laboratory experiments. Now a team of scientists departs from these "optimal" laboratory-suitable viruses to study the molecular response when bacteria and phages interact in nature, where phages do not always encounter the perfect host.

Phage research has helped identify DNA as the hereditary material and described the nature of gene expression in microbes, but studies of interactions are largely limited to laboratory studies featuring optimal infection conditions. Broadening the understanding of how efficiently phages infect a host in nature can help scientists develop better ecosystem models, devise more sustainable biotechnology, and improve human health.

Building on previous research, scientists from The Ohio State University, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, studied vast amounts of data on proteins and the messenger RNA molecules associated with them to look at how efficiently two different phages infected similar bacteria. The bacterial strains are common in the environment, and their close relatives are found in soils, water, and humans. They affect nutrient turnover, health, and disease. By taking regular measurements as the infection progressed using the Orbitrap mass spectrometer and next generation sequencers at EMSL, a DOE Office of Science user facility, the team was able to capture all the internal viral and bacterial changes. For the first time, the work identified multiple infection inefficiencies in such interactions—from poorer adsorption at the cell surface to intercellular responses by the host that repressed the phage's ability to take over the host, express its genes, or make its proteins. These inefficiencies suggest phage- interactions in nature are more complicated than traditional studies have shown. Results will help scientists better understand, predict, and enhance the functioning of microbial communities important to industry, agriculture, and .

Explore further: CRISPR-Cas9 may be a double-edged sword for bacteria

More information: Multiple mechanisms drive phage infection efficiency in nearly-identical hosts. ISEM J. (2018). DOI:org/10.1038/s41396-018-0099-8

Related Stories

CRISPR-Cas9 may be a double-edged sword for bacteria

February 15, 2018

A team of researchers with the Catholic University of America has found evidence that suggests a defense mechanism used by bacteria to ward off phage attacks might also be benefiting the phages. In their paper published on ...

Phages found to use peptide to communicate with one another

January 19, 2017

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers from several institutions in Israel has, for the first time, identified a molecule that phages use to communicate with one another. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the team ...

Viruses that infect bacteria abound in bladder

January 29, 2018

Phages—viruses that infect bacteria—are abundant in the bacteria that inhabit the female bladder. This is good news, because phage could be used as alternative treatment when antibiotics become resistant to pathogenic ...

Workbench for virus design

February 5, 2018

ETH researchers have developed a technology platform that allows them to systematically modify and customise bacteriophages. This technology is a step towards making phage therapies a powerful tool for combating dangerous ...

Recommended for you

High vinculin levels help keep aging fruit fly hearts young

July 17, 2018

Our cells tend to lose their shape as we grow older, contributing to many of the effects we experience as aging. This poses particular problems for the heart, where aging can disrupt the protein network within muscle cells ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.