Bacteriophage Cooperation Suppresses CRISPR-Cas3 and Cas9 Immunity


Bacteria utilize CRISPR-Cas adaptive immune systems for protection from bacteriophages (phages), and some phages produce anti-CRISPR (Acr) proteins that inhibit immune function. Despite thorough mechanistic and structural information for some Acr proteins, how they are deployed and utilized by a phage during infection is unknown. Here, we show that Acr production does not guarantee phage replication when faced with CRISPR-Cas immunity, but instead, infections fail when phage population numbers fall below a critical threshold. Infections succeed only if a sufficient Acr dose is contributed to a single cell by multiple phage genomes. The production of Acr proteins by phage genomes that fail to replicate leave the cell immunosuppressed, which predisposes the cell for successful infection by other phages in the population. This altruistic mechanism for CRISPR-Cas inhibition demonstrates inter-virus cooperation that may also manifest in other host-parasite interactions.




Borges, Adair L., Jenny Y. Zhang, MaryClare F. Rollins, Beatriz A. Osuna, Blake Wiedenheft, and Joseph Bondy-Denomy, “Bacteriophage Cooperation Suppresses CRISPR-Cas3 and Cas9 Immunity,” Cell, August 2018, 174(4):917-925. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.06.013.
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