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Free Content A promiscuous antitoxin of bacteriophage T4 ensures successful viral replication

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Bacteria are constantly threatened by predation from bacteriophage parasites and, in response, have evolved an array of resistance mechanisms. These resistance mechanisms then place greater selection pressure on the infecting bacteriophages, which develop counter‐strategies in a perpetual ‘arms race’ between virus and host. Toxin–antitoxin (TA) loci are widespread in bacteria and can confer multiple benefits, including resistance to bacteriophages. The study by Otsuka and Yonesaki, published in this issue of Molecular Microbiology, describes a new plasmid‐encoded TA system, lsoAB, which confers resistance to a dmd mutant of bacteriophage T4 through the activity of the LsoA toxin. Infections with wild‐type T4, however, are unaffected as the Dmd protein acts as an alternative antitoxin to LsoA, thus preventing its anti‐bacteriophage activity. Dmd has also been shown to negate the activity of a related toxin, RnlA. This is a striking result indicating that Dmd can act as a promiscuous antitoxin, binding and inhibiting multiple toxin partners, when antitoxin activity is generally considered to be limited to a single cognate toxin. This study is an exciting addition to both the bacteriophage resistance and TA fields, and suggests a greater role for TA system‐based resistance and counter‐resistance in the world's oldest predator‐prey relationship.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1QW, UK.

Publication date: February 1, 2012

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