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Can Viruses Hack Symbiosis To Spread Across Bacterial and Eukaryotic Cells?

Media Coverage and Info:

What This Itsy Bitsy Virus Took From a Spider CNN report (10/18/16)

This Week in Virology Podcast / Video (4/12/15)

Taking the Bite Out of Vector-Borne Diseases NIH press release (03/27/13)

Scientist, March 2006: "Symbiotic Enemies Fight Over Insect"

NSF Award Abstract and NIH Award Abstract

All viruses are engaged in a competitive arms race with their hosts for survival, resulting frequently in significant coevolution. Thus, modes of cellular entry and exit are definitive and often specific properties of a virus and generally correlate with the cellular domain of their host. For example, the majority of bacterial viruses, or phages, utilize tail-like structures to recognize and penetrate their bacterial hosts and regularly encode a lytic cassette consisting of a holin, an endolysin and spanins to rupture and exit host membranes. Eukaryotic viruses, on the other hand, access the cytoplasm either by membrane fusion or membrane disruption depending on the presence or absence of a viral envelope, respectively. They generally deploy exit strategies such as budding or exocytosis rather than cellular lysis, although some are known to induce apoptosis as a means to release progeny into the extracellular matrix.

Obligate intracellular bacteria are curiously encompassed by both bacterial and eukaryotic membranes and therefore their viruses may possess an enigmatic two-fold challenge. They must not only breach peptidoglycan and permeabilize bacterial membranes, but they also have to cross the eukaryotic membrane(s) that encapsulates the bacteria as well as the eukaryotic cytoplasm or extracellular matrix that they encounter upon bacterial lysis. To the best of our knowledge, no study in virology has assessed the potential for viruses to traverse multiple cellular domains of life. Do these viruses thrive with standard bacteriophage genes or do they utilize a novel strategy that transcends contemporary virus demarcations?

Selected Publications:

Bordenstein SR and SR Bordenstein. (2016) Eukaryotic Association Module in Phage WO Genomes from Wolbachia. Nature Communications 7: 13155. Link

Metcalf JA and SR Bordenstein. (2012) The Case of Endosymbionts: The Complexity of Virus Systems. Current Opinion in Microbiology 15(4): 546-552. Link

Kent, B.N., L. Salichos, J.G. Gibbons, A. Rokas, I.L.G. Newton, M.E. Clark, and S.R. Bordenstein. (2011) Complete bacteriophage transfer in a bacterial endosymbiont (Wolbachia) determined by targeted genome capature. Genome Biology and Evolution (cover). Link

Bordenstein, SR and Bordenstein SR. (2011) Temperature Affects the Tripartite Interactions Between Bacteriophage WO, Wolbachia, and cytoplasmic inocompatibilty. PLoS ONE 6(12): e29106. Link

Kent BN and SR Bordenstein (2010) Phage WO: Lamda of the Endosymbiont World. Trends in Microbiology 18(4):173-81. Link