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Quorum sensing genes discovered in a bacteriophage genome?

Recently, the discovery that certain bacteriophage encode bacterial gene silencing systems (CRISPR) that can counteract host defense systems demonstrated how mind boggling the evolutionary pathways between phage and bacterial host actually are. In this publication, these relationships are extended further with the discovery of a bacteriophage that encodes genes that are involved in quorum sensing. Quorum sensing is a form of bacterial communication that enables bacteria to enumerate their neighbours and initiate complex group behaviours such as the production of toxins and biofilm formations. These genes have heretofore never been identified in a bacteriophage. This team sequenced the genome of phiCDHM1, a bacteriophage that infects Clostridium difficile, an infamous nosocomial pathogen. Some of the genes identified here encode components of the quorum sensing system such as a precursor of an autoinducing peptide (AIP), the enzyme which processes the precursor (AgrB), and a histidine kinase (AgrC), which detects the AIP and subsequently activates a response regulator. This collection of genes presents microbiologists with all sorts of fascinating questions, some of which could be: can bacteriophage, like secret spies, hack into bacterial communication systems and use this information against them? Could they somehow disrupt the communication system, or could they simply use it to sense the presence of the bacteria in order to activate other pathways in the infection process?
 
 

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