Multiple mechanisms drive phage infection efficiency in nearly identical hosts

Cristina Howard-Varona, Katherine R. Hargreaves, Natalie E. Solonenko, Lye Meng Markillie, Richard Allen White, Heather M. Brewer, Charles Ansong, Galya Orr, Joshua N. Adkins, Matthew B. Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Phage-host interactions are critical to ecology, evolution, and biotechnology. Central to those is infection efficiency, which remains poorly understood, particularly in nature. Here we apply genome-wide transcriptomics and proteomics to investigate infection efficiency in nature's own experiment: two nearly identical (genetically and physiologically) Bacteroidetes bacterial strains (host18 and host38) that are genetically intractable, but environmentally important, where phage infection efficiency varies. On host18, specialist phage phi18:3 infects efficiently, whereas generalist phi38:1 infects inefficiently. On host38, only phi38:1 infects, and efficiently. Overall, phi18:3 globally repressed host18's transcriptome and proteome, expressed genes that likely evaded host restriction/modification (R/M) defenses and controlled its metabolism, and synchronized phage transcription with translation. In contrast, phi38:1 failed to repress host18's transcriptome and proteome, did not evade host R/M defenses or express genes for metabolism control, did not synchronize transcripts with proteins and its protein abundances were likely targeted by host proteases. However, on host38, phi38:1 globally repressed host transcriptome and proteome, synchronized phage transcription with translation, and infected host38 efficiently. Together these findings reveal multiple infection inefficiencies. While this contrasts the single mechanisms often revealed in laboratory mutant studies, it likely better reflects the phage-host interaction dynamics that occur in nature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1605-1618
Number of pages14
JournalISME Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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