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Microbial defenses against mobile genetic elements and viruses: Who defends whom from what?

Abstract : Prokaryotes have numerous mobile genetic elements (MGEs) that mediate horizontal gene transfer (HGT) between cells. These elements can be costly, even deadly, and cells use numerous defense systems to filter, control, or inactivate them. Recent studies have shown that prophages, conjugative elements, their parasites (phage satellites and mobilizable elements), and other poorly described MGEs encode defense systems homologous to those of bacteria. These constitute a significant fraction of the repertoire of cellular defense genes. As components of MGEs, these defense systems have presumably evolved to provide them, not the cell, adaptive functions. While the interests of the host and MGEs are aligned when they face a common threat such as an infection by a virulent phage, defensive functions carried by MGEs might also play more selfish roles to fend off other antagonistic MGEs or to ensure their maintenance in the cell. MGEs are eventually lost from the surviving host genomes by mutational processes and their defense systems can be co-opted when they provide an advantage to the cell. The abundance of defense systems in MGEs thus sheds new light on the role, effect, and fate of the so-called "cellular defense systems," whereby they are not only merely microbial defensive weapons in a 2-partner arms race, but also tools of intragenomic conflict between multiple genetic elements with divergent interests that shape cell fate and gene flow at the population level.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, June 8, 2022 - 4:36:23 PM
Last modification on : Friday, August 5, 2022 - 12:03:11 PM
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Eduardo P. C. Rocha, David Bikard. Microbial defenses against mobile genetic elements and viruses: Who defends whom from what?. PLoS Biology, 2022, 20 (1), pp.e3001514. ⟨10.1371/journal.pbio.3001514⟩. ⟨pasteur-03690954⟩



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