How pirate phage interferes with helper phage: Comparison of the two distinct strategies

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Pirate phages use the structural proteins encoded by unrelated helper phages to propagate. The best-studied example is the pirate P4 and helper P2 of coliphages, and it has been known that the Staphylococcus aureus pathogenicity islands (SaPIs) that can encode virulence factors act as pirate phages, too. When alone in the host, the pirate phages act as a prophage, but when the helper phage gene is also in the same host cell, the pirate phage has ability to exploit the helper phages structural proteins to produce pirate phage particles and spread, interfering with the helper phage production. The known helper phages in these systems are temperate phages. Interestingly, the interference of the pirate phage to the helper phage occurs in a different manner between the SaPI-helper system and the P4-P2 system. SaPIs cannot lyse a helper lysogen upon infection, while when a helper phage lyse a SaPI lysogen, most of the phage particles produced are the SaPI particles. On the contrary, in the P4-P2 system, a pirate phage P4 can lyse a helper P2 lysogen to produce mostly the P4 particles, while when P2 phage lyses a P4 lysogen, most of the produced phages are the P2 particles. Here, the consequences of these different strategies in the pirate and helper phage spreading among uninfected host is analyzed by using mathematical models. It is found that SaPI's strategy interferes with the helper phage spreading significantly more than the P4’s strategy, because SaPI interferes with the helper phage's main reproduction step, while P4 interferes only by forcing the helper lysogens to lyse. However, the interference is found to be weaker in the spatially structured environment than in the well-mixed environment. This is because, in the spatial setting, the system tends to self-organize so that the helper phages take over the front of propagation due to the need of helper phage for the pirate phage spreading.

TidsskriftJournal of Theoretical Biology
Antal sider9
StatusUdgivet - 7 feb. 2020

ID: 236011448