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Anti-phage islands force their target phage to directly mediate island excision and spread


Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of the diarrheal disease cholera, is antagonized by the lytic phage ICP1 in the aquatic environment and in human hosts. Mobile genetic elements called PLEs (phage-inducible chromosomal island-like elements) protect V. cholerae from ICP1 infection and initiate their anti-phage response by excising from the chromosome. Here, we show that PLE 1 encodes a large serine recombinase, Int, that exploits an ICP1-specific protein as a recombination directionality factor (RDF) to excise PLE 1 in response to phage infection. We show that this phage-encoded protein is sufficient to direct Int-mediated recombination in vitro and that it is highly conserved in all sequenced ICP1 genomes. Our results uncover an aspect of the molecular specificity underlying the conflict between a single predatory phage and V. cholerae PLE and contribute to our understanding of long-term evolution between phage and their bacterial hosts.

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