Physiological characterization of single-gene lysis proteins. Academic Article uri icon


  • UNLABELLED: Single-strand RNA (ssRNA) and single-strand DNA phages elicit host lysis using a single gene, in each case designated as sgl. Of the 11 identified Sgls, three have been shown to be specific inhibitors of different steps in the pathway that supplies lipid II to the peptidoglycan (PG) biosynthesis machinery. These Sgls have been called "protein antibiotics" because the lytic event is a septal catastrophe indistinguishable from that caused by cell wall antibiotics. Here, we designate these as type I Sgls. In this formalism, the other eight Sgls are assigned to type II, the best-studied of which is protein L of the paradigm F-specific ssRNA phage MS2. Comparisons have suggested that type II Sgls have four sequence elements distinguished by hydrophobic and polar character. Environmental metatranscriptomics has revealed thousands of new ssRNA phage genomes, each of which presumably has an Sgl. Here, we describe methods to distinguish type I and type II Sgls. Using phase contrast microscopy, we show that both classes of Sgls cause the formation of blebs prior to lysis, but the location of the blebs differs significantly. In addition, we show that L and other type II Sgls do not inhibit the net synthesis of PG, as measured by radio-labeling of PG. Finally, we provide direct evidence that the Sgl from Pseudomonas phage PP7 is a type I Sgl, in support of a recent report based on a genetic selection. This shows that the putative four-element sequence structure suggested for L is not a reliable discriminator for the operational characterization of Sgls. IMPORTANCE: The ssRNA phage world has recently undergone a metagenomic expansion upward of a thousandfold. Each genome likely carries at least one single-gene lysis (sgl) cistron encoding a protein that single-handedly induces host autolysis. Here, we initiate an approach to segregate the Sgls into operational types based on physiological analysis, as a first step toward the alluring goal of finding many new ways to induce bacterial death and the attendant expectations for new antibiotic development.

published proceedings

  • J Bacteriol

author list (cited authors)

  • Antillon, S. F., Bernhardt, T. G., Chamakura, K., & Young, R. y.

complete list of authors

  • Antillon, S Francesca||Bernhardt, Thomas G||Chamakura, Karthik||Young, Ry

editor list (cited editors)

  • Bondy-Denomy, J.

publication date

  • March 2024