Phage exposure causes dynamic shifts in the expression states of specific phase-variable genes of Campylobacter jejuni

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Jack Aidley, Martine C. Holst Sørensen, Christopher D. Bayliss, Lone Brøndsted

Phase variation (PV) creates phenotypic heterogeneity at high frequencies and in a reversible manner. This phenomenon allows bacteria to adapt to a variety of different environments and selective pressures. In Campylobacter jejuni this reversible adaptive process is mediated by mutations in homopolymeric G/C tracts. Many C. jejuni-specific phages are dependent on phase-variable surface structures for successful infection. We previously identified the capsular polysaccharide (CPS) moiety, MeOPN-GalfNAc, as a receptor for phage F336 and showed that phase-variable expression of the transferase for this CPS modification, cj1421, and two other phase-variable CPS genes generated phage resistance in C. jejuni. Here we investigate the population dynamics of C. jejuni NCTC11168 when exposed to phage F336 in vitro using a newly described method - the 28-locus-CJ11168 PV analysis. Dynamic switching was observed in the ON/OFF states of three phase-variable CPS genes, cj1421, cj1422 and cj1426, during phage F336 exposure, with the dominant phage-resistant phasotype differing between cultures. Although loss of the phage receptor was predominately observed, several other PV events also led to phage resistance, a phenomenon that increases the chance of phage-resistant subpopulations being present in any growing culture. No other PV genes were affected and exposure to phage F336 resulted in a highly specific response, only selecting for phase variants of cj1421, cj1422 and cj1426. In summary, C. jejuni may benefit from modification of the surface in multiple ways to inhibit or reduce phage binding, thereby ensuring the survival of the population when exposed to phages.

TidsskriftMicrobiology (United Kingdom)
Udgave nummer6
Sider (fra-til)911-919
Antal sider9
StatusUdgivet - 2017

ID: 184388743