Arbitrium communication controls phage lysogeny through non-lethal modulation of a host toxin–antitoxin defence system

Polina Guler, Shira Omer Bendori, Tom Borenstein, Nitzan Aframian, Amit Kessel, Avigdor Eldar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Temperate Bacillus phages often utilize arbitrium communication to control lysis/lysogeny decisions, but the mechanisms by which this control is exerted remains largely unknown. Here we find that the arbitrium system of Bacillus subtilis phage ϕ3T modulates the host-encoded MazEF toxin–antitoxin system to this aim. Upon infection, the MazF ribonuclease is activated by three phage genes. At low arbitrium signal concentrations, MazF is inactivated by two phage-encoded MazE homologues: the arbitrium-controlled AimX and the later-expressed YosL proteins. At high signal, MazF remains active, promoting lysogeny without harming the bacterial host. MazF cleavage sites are enriched on transcripts of phage lytic genes but absent from the phage repressor in ϕ3T and other Spβ-like phages. Combined with low activation levels of MazF during infections, this pattern explains the phage-specific effect. Our results show how a bacterial toxin–antitoxin system has been co-opted by a phage to control lysis/lysogeny decisions without compromising host viability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-160
Number of pages11
JournalNature Microbiology
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2024

Funding

FundersFunder number
European Research Council724805
Israel Science Foundation2228/21

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