Acquisition of Phage Sensitivity by Bacteria through Exchange of Phage Receptors

Elhanan Tzipilevich, Michal Habusha, Sigal Ben-Yehuda*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Bacteriophages (phages) typically exhibit a narrow host range, yet they tremendously impact horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Here, we investigate phage dynamics in communities harboring phage-resistant (R) and sensitive (S) bacteria, a common scenario in nature. Using Bacillus subtilis and its lytic phage SPP1, we demonstrate that R cells, lacking SPP1 receptor, can be lysed by SPP1 when co-cultured with S cells. This unanticipated lysis was triggered in part by phage lytic enzymes released from nearby infected cells. Strikingly, we discovered that occasionally phages can invade R cells, a phenomenon we termed acquisition of sensitivity (ASEN). We found that ASEN is mediated by R cells transiently gaining phage attachment molecules from neighboring S cells and provide evidence that this molecular exchange is driven by membrane vesicles. Exchange of phage attachment molecules could even occur in an interspecies fashion, enabling phage adsorption to non-host species, providing an unexplored route for HGT.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)186-199.e12
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 12 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Inc.


  • Bacillus subtilis
  • Phi29
  • SPO1
  • SPP1
  • bacteriophages
  • membrane vesicles
  • phage spread


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