In the billion years that bacteriophage (or phage) have existed together with bacteria the phage have evolved systems that may be exploited for our benefit. One of these is the lytic system used by the phage to release their progeny from an infected bacterium. Endolysins (or lysins) are highly evolved enzymes in the lytic system produced to cleave essential bonds in the bacterial cell wall peptidoglycan for progeny release. Small quantities of purified recombinant lysin added externally to gram-positive bacteria results in immediate lysis causing log-fold death of the target bacterium. Lysins have now been used successfully in a variety of animal models to control pathogenic antibiotic resistant bacteria found on mucosal surfaces and in infected tissues. The advantages over antibiotics are their specificity for the pathogen without disturbing the normal flora, the low chance of bacterial resistance, and their ability to kill colonizing pathogens on mucosal surfaces, a capacity previously unavailable. Lysins therefore, may be a much-needed anti-infective (or enzybiotic) in an age of mounting antibiotic resistance.
Bacteriophage-encoded proteins which inhibit or modify cellular components may contribute to antibacterial drug discovery by allowing the identification of novel targets. Given their abundance and diversity, phages may have various strategies in host inhibition and therefore may possess a variety of such proteins. Using Rhodococcus equi and phage YF1, we show that a single phage possesses numerous genes that inhibit the host when introduced into the host on a plasmid. These genes mostly encode proteins of unknown function, confirming the potential that this approach may have in providing new antibacterial targets.
The aim of this study was to use comparative modeling to predict the three-dimensional structure of the CHAPK protein (cysteine, histidine-dependent amidohydrolase/peptidase domain of the LysK endolysin, derived from bacteriophage K). Iterative PSI-BLAST searches against the Protein Data Bank (PDB) and nonredundant (nr) databases were used to populate a multiple alignment for analysis using the T-Coffee Expresso server. A consensus Maximum Parsimony phylogenetic tree with a bootstrap analysis setting of 1,000 replicates was constructed using MEGA4. Structural templates relevant to our target (CHAPK) were identified, processed in Expresso and used to generate a 3D model in the alignment mode of SWISS-MODEL. These templates were also processed in the I-TASSER web server. A Staphylococcus saprophyticus CHAP domain protein, 2K3A, was identified as the structural template in both servers. The I-TASSER server generated the CHAPK model with the best bond geometries when analyzed using PROCHECK and the most logical organization of the structure. The predicted 3D model indicates that CHAPK has a papain-like fold. Circular dichroism spectropolarimetry also indicated that CHAPK has an αβ fold, which is consistent with the model presented. The putative active site maintained a highly conserved Cys54-His117-Glu134 charge relay and an oxyanion hole residue Asn136. The residue triplet, Cys-His-Glu, is known to be a viable proteolytic triad in which we predict the Cys residue is used in a nucleophilic attack on peptide bonds at a specific site in the pentaglycine cross bridge of staphylococcal cell wall peptidoglycan. Use of comparative modeling has allowed approximation of the 3D structure of CHAPK giving information on the structure and an insight into the binding and active site of the catalytic domain. This may facilitate its development as an alternative antibacterial agent.
The phylogenetic relationships and structural similarities of the proteins encoded within the regulatory region (containing the integrase gene and the lytic–lysogenic transcriptional switch genes) of P2-like phages were analyzed, and compared with the phylogenetic relationship of P2-like phages inferred from four structural genes. P2-like phages are thought to be one of the most genetically homogenous phage groups but the regulatory region nevertheless varies extensively between different phage genomes.
The analyses showed that there are many types of regulatory regions, but two types can be clearly distinguished; regions similar either to the phage P2 or to the phage 186 regulatory regions. These regions were also found to be most frequent among the sequenced P2-like phage or prophage genomes, and common in phages using Escherichia coli as a host. Both the phylogenetic and the structural analyses showed that these two regions are related. The integrases as well as the cox/apl genes show a common monophyletic origin but the immunity repressor genes, the type P2 C gene and the type 186 cI gene, are likely of different origin. There was no indication of recombination between the P2–186 types of regulatory genes but the comparison of the phylogenies of the regulatory region with the phylogeny based on four structural genes revealed recombinational events between the regulatory region and the structural genes.
Less common regulatory regions were phylogenetically heterogeneous and typically contained a fusion of genes from distantly related or unknown phages and P2-like genes.
Viral codon usage is shaped by the conflicting forces of mutational pressure and selection to match host patterns for optimal expression. We examined whether genomic architecture (single- or double-stranded DNA) influences the degree to which bacteriophage codon usage differ from their primary bacterial hosts and each other. While both correlated equally with their hosts’ genomic nucleotide content, the coat genes of ssDNA phages were less well adapted than those of dsDNA phages to their hosts’ codon usage profiles due to their preference for codons ending in thymine. No specific biases were detected in dsDNA phage genomes. In all nine of ten cases of codon redundancy in which a specific codon was overrepresented, ssDNA phages favored the NNT codon. A cytosine to thymine biased mutational pressure working in conjunction with strong selection against non-synonymous mutations appears be shaping codon usage bias in ssDNA viral genomes.
The first phage electron micrographs were published in 1940 in Germany and proved the particulate nature of bacteriophages. Phages and infected bacteria were first examined raw and unstained. US American scientists introduced shadowing and freeze-drying. Phages appeared to be tailed and morphologically heterogeneous. Phage types identified by early electron microscopy include enterobacteriophages T4, T1, T7, T5, 7–11, ViI and Pseudomonas phage PB1. This paper retraces the development of early virus electron microscopy till the introduction of negative staining.
It can be difficult to appreciate just how small bacteria and phages are or how large, in comparison, the volumes that they occupy. A single milliliter, for example, can represent to a phage what would be, with proper scaling, an “ocean” to you and me. Here I illustrate, using more easily visualized macroscopic examples, the difficulties that a phage, as a randomly diffusing particle, can have in locating bacteria to infect. I conclude by restating the truism that the rate of phage adsorption to a given target bacterium is a function of phage density, that is, titer, in combination with the degree of bacterial susceptibility to adsorption by an encountering phage.