Dormant phages communicate via arbitrium to control exit from lysogeny

Nitzan Aframian, Shira Omer Bendori, Stav Kabel, Polina Guler, Avigail Stokar-Avihail, Erica Manor, Kholod Msaeed, Valeria Lipsman, Ilana Grinberg, Alaa Mahagna, Avigdor Eldar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Temperate bacterial viruses (phages) can transition between lysis—replicating and killing the host—and lysogeny, that is, existing as dormant prophages while keeping the host viable. Recent research showed that on invading a naïve cell, some phages communicate using a peptide signal, termed arbitrium, to control the decision of entering lysogeny. Whether communication can also serve to regulate exit from lysogeny (known as phage induction) is unclear. Here we show that arbitrium-coding prophages continue to communicate from the lysogenic state by secreting and sensing the arbitrium signal. Signalling represses DNA damage-dependent phage induction, enabling prophages to reduce the induction rate when surrounded by other lysogens. We show that in certain phages, DNA damage and communication converge to regulate the expression of the arbitrium-responsive gene aimX, while in others integration of DNA damage and communication occurs downstream of aimX expression. Additionally, signalling by prophages tilts the decision of nearby infecting phages towards lysogeny. Altogether, we find that phages use small-molecule communication throughout their entire life cycle to sense the abundance of lysogens in the population, thus avoiding lysis when they are likely to encounter established lysogens rather than permissive uninfected hosts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-153
Number of pages9
JournalNature Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


FundersFunder number
FP7 Ideas: European Research Council724805
European Research Council


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