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The secret life (cycle) of temperate bacteriophages

By Alfred Fillol-Salom, Rodrigo Bacigalupe, Suzanne Humphrey, Yin Ning Chiang, John Chen, Jose Penades

Posted 25 Aug 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.08.25.457636

Lysogenic induction ends the stable association between a bacteriophage and its host, and the transition to the lytic cycle begins with prophage excision followed by DNA replication and packaging (ERP), a temporal program that is considered universal for most temperate phages. Here we report that the long-standing ERP program is an artefact of the experimentally favoured Salmonella phage P22 tsc229 heat-inducible mutant, and that wild-type P22 actually follows a replication-packaging-excision (RPE) program. We found that unlike P22 tsc229, P22 delayed excision to just before it was detrimental to phage production. Thus, at minimal expense to itself, P22 has tuned the timing of excision to balance propagation with lateral transduction, powering the evolution of its host through gene transfer in the interest of self-preservation.

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