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Tailocins are bactericidal protein complexes produced by a wide variety of bacteria that kill closely related strains and may play a role in microbial community structure. Thanks to their high specificity, tailocins have been proposed as precision antibacterial agents for therapeutic applications. Compared to tailed phages, with whom they share an evolutionary and morphological relationship, bacterially produced tailocins kill their host upon production but producing strains display resistance to self-intoxication. Though lipopolysaccharide (LPS) has been shown to act as a receptor for tailocins, the breadth of factors involved in tailocin sensitivity, and the mechanisms behind resistance to self-intoxication, remain unclear. Here, we employed genome-wide screens in four non-model pseudomonads to identify mutants with altered fitness in the presence of tailocins produced by closely related pseudomonads. Our mutant screens identified O-antigen composition and display as most important in defining sensitivity to our tailocins. In addition, the screens suggest LPS thinning as a mechanism by which resistant strains can become more sensitive to tailocins. We validate many of these novel findings, and extend these observations of tailocin sensitivity to 130 genome-sequenced pseudomonads. This work offers insights into tailocin-bacteria interactions, informing the potential use of tailocins in microbiome manipulation and antibacterial therapy.


Sean Carim, Ashley L Azadeh, Alexey E Kazakov, Morgan N Price, Peter J Walian, Lauren M Lui, Torben N Nielsen, Romy Chakraborty, Adam M Deutschbauer, Vivek K Mutalik, Adam P Arkin. Systematic discovery of pseudomonad genetic factors involved in sensitivity to tailocins. The ISME journal. 2021 Mar 01

PMID: 33649553

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