Chapter 5 : Phage Ecology and Bacterial Pathogenesis

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Bacteriophages (phages) are the viruses of bacteria. The impact of phages on bacterial pathogenesis may be divided into two major themes, transduction and predation. In this chapter, the authors take a phage-centered view of the ecology of the phage-bacterium relationship, looking in particular for unappreciated subtleties that might impact pathogen formation, disease progression, or the phage-induced destruction of bacterial populations. The impact of phages on bacterial pathogenesis occurs primarily over the course of phage infection. Transduction is described as the phage-mediated movement of genetic material from one bacterium to another. Generalized transduction consequently does not result in DNA serial transfer except via subsequent accidental means. Researchers need to be aware not just of the traditional laboratory characterization of phage biology but also of how to interpret that biology from an ecological perspective. Phages are also often compared by restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis and Southern blotting. The major advantage of working with cultured phages is the potential for further investigations into phage biology. Metagenomic analyses are another way to identify uncultured phages within environmental communities. Population modeling also suggests that uncultured phage genomes from the environment may be sequenced to completion by the shotgun approach. Obtaining and propagating more virulence factor (VF)-encoding phages in culture, including currently unidentified toxin-carrying phages sequenced from the environment, will provide valuable information concerning host range and other aspects of phage biology that are relevant to bacterial pathogenesis.

Citation: Breitbart M, Rohwer F, Abedon S. 2005. Phage Ecology and Bacterial Pathogenesis, p 66-91. In Waldor M, Friedman D, Adhya S (ed), Phages. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816506.ch5
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Image of FIGURE 1

Overview of phage-bacterium interactions and the rise of bacterial virulence. Phage-bacterium interactions include infection, transduction, and phage conversion (indicated by black lines and accompanying text) plus phage release to a free phage pool, toxin release, and nutrient release upon lysis (release is indicated by dashed lines and accompanying text).For lytic phages, release occurs via bacterial lysis, resulting in bacterial death (note that the intervening infection between adsorption and the lysis of avirulent bacteria [upper right part of figure] is not explicitly shown). For filamentous phages, free phage release occurs without bacterial lysis (continuous release). Reduction to lysogeny can result in extensive delays between phage adsorption and phage progeny release, during which time changes in the bacterial phenotype can occur as a consequence of phage infection (lysogenic conversion). The induction of lysogens results in free phage production. Note that neither transduction nor lysogenic conversion obligately results in an increase in bacterial virulence. Although it is not indicated, the curing of phage infections (prophage loss) may result in changes in bacterial virulence, such as virulence reduction. Various consequences of phage-associated increases in bacterial virulence are indicated on the lower right.

Citation: Breitbart M, Rohwer F, Abedon S. 2005. Phage Ecology and Bacterial Pathogenesis, p 66-91. In Waldor M, Friedman D, Adhya S (ed), Phages. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816506.ch5
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Image of FIGURE 2

Overview of phage and bacterial pools and their interactions. The figure shows, from a distinctly anthropocentric perspective, the various environmental pools of phages and bacteria. “Organism” refers to human, animal, plant, protozoan, etc., hosts of bacteria, and “bacteria” includes both phage-infected and non-phage-infected varieties. Phage or bacterial movement among individual organisms, including between members of the same species of organism, is assumed to involve entrance into an extraorganismal pool, even if only briefly (movement via the transfer of body fluids or tissues may be exceptional). Two such phage-containing pools exist: a free phage pool and an infected bacterium pool, with the latter pool including bacterial lysogens. The pools can also be divided into intraorganismal and extraorganismal forms, with the various free phage pools connected in the figure via solid arrows and the various bacterial pools connected via dotted arrows. In any of these pools, virion decay can occur with or without phage association with phage-susceptible bacteria. Bacterial death can also occur, although this is not indicated in the diagram. Phage sequestration can occur intracellularly via lysogeny (or, more temporarily, via pseudolysogeny or a carrier state), but free phage sequestration generally occurs via associations with materials other than susceptible bacteria (e.g., burying within aquatic sediments).

Citation: Breitbart M, Rohwer F, Abedon S. 2005. Phage Ecology and Bacterial Pathogenesis, p 66-91. In Waldor M, Friedman D, Adhya S (ed), Phages. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816506.ch5
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Generic image for table

Melding concepts of ecology with those of phage ecology and bacterial pathology

Citation: Breitbart M, Rohwer F, Abedon S. 2005. Phage Ecology and Bacterial Pathogenesis, p 66-91. In Waldor M, Friedman D, Adhya S (ed), Phages. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816506.ch5
Generic image for table

Melding concepts of ecology with those of phage ecology and bacterial pathology

Citation: Breitbart M, Rohwer F, Abedon S. 2005. Phage Ecology and Bacterial Pathogenesis, p 66-91. In Waldor M, Friedman D, Adhya S (ed), Phages. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816506.ch5
Generic image for table

Recent phage-based experimental evolutionary biology literature

Citation: Breitbart M, Rohwer F, Abedon S. 2005. Phage Ecology and Bacterial Pathogenesis, p 66-91. In Waldor M, Friedman D, Adhya S (ed), Phages. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816506.ch5
Generic image for table

Environmental ecology literature on VF-encoding phages

Citation: Breitbart M, Rohwer F, Abedon S. 2005. Phage Ecology and Bacterial Pathogenesis, p 66-91. In Waldor M, Friedman D, Adhya S (ed), Phages. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816506.ch5

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