Pleska, Maros

Biology of restriction-modification systems at the single-cell and population level - IST Austria 2017


Abstract Acknowledgments Preface About the author List of publications appearing in thesis Table of contents List of figures List of tables List of symbols/abbreviations 1 Introduction 2 Effects of mutations in phage restriction sites during escape from restriction-modification 3 Bacterial autoimmunity due to a restriction-modification system 4 Phage-host population dynamics promotes prophage acquisition in bacteria with innate immunity References

Restriction-modification (RM) represents the simplest and possibly the most widespread mechanism of self/non-self discrimination in nature. In order to provide bacteria with immunity against bacteriophages and other parasitic genetic elements, RM systems rely on a balance between two enzymes: the restriction enzyme, which cleaves non-self DNA at specific restriction sites, and the modification enzyme, which tags the host’s DNA as self and thus protects it from cleavage. In this thesis, I use population and single-cell level experiments in combination with mathematical modeling to study different aspects of the interplay between RM systems, bacteria and bacteriophages. First, I analyze how mutations in phage restriction sites affect the probability of phage escape – an inherently stochastic process, during which phages accidently get modified instead of restricted. Next, I use single-cell experiments to show that RM systems can, with a low probability, attack the genome of their bacterial host and that this primitive form of autoimmunity leads to a tradeoff between the evolutionary cost and benefit of RM systems. Finally, I investigate the nature of interactions between bacteria, RM systems and temperate bacteriophages to find that, as a consequence of phage escape and its impact on population dynamics, RM systems can promote acquisition of symbiotic bacteriophages, rather than limit it. The results presented here uncover new fundamental biological properties of RM systems and highlight their importance in the ecology and evolution of bacteria, bacteriophages and their interactions.

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