Research Article

Genome hypermobility by lateral transduction

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Science  12 Oct 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6411, pp. 207-212
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat5867

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Pathologizing Staphylococcus, fast

Bacteriophages are the main vehicle for gene swapping in bacteria, notoriously of pathogenicity islands and antibiotic resistance genes. Chen et al. noticed that the Staphylococcus aureus prophages do not excise from their host's genome until very late in their life cycles (see the Perspective by Davidson). Thus, the phage DNA is amplified while embedded in the bacterial chromosome. The resulting concatemers are processively packed into virus capsules while still integrated in the host chromosome. Each virion is only set loose when the capsule has reached physical capacity—a process called “headful” packaging. In situ amplification maximizes viral replication, and the headful mechanism means adjacent bacterial-host DNA also gets grabbed to fill the capsule. This process ensures that host genes are transmitted along with the phage.

Science, this issue p. 207; see also p. 152