New Antiviral Defense Systems Discovered

A one-minute summary of “Systematic discovery of antiphage defense systems in the microbial pangenome” by Doron et. al

Some of the most useful tools in the molecular biologists toolkit come from using defense systems of prokaryotes (bacteria and archaea). These defenses protect the prokaryotes from bacteriophages (aka “phages” – viruses that infect bacteria).

A new study in the journal Science identified several (9) novel bacterial defense systems. Here’s how they did it:

  1. Look through tons of bacterial genome DNA
  2. Find lots of known antiviral gene clusters
  3. Take note of gene clusters found nearby and conclude “guilt by association”
  4. Copy and paste the guilty-looking gene clusters into model bacteria
  5. Infect the model bacteria with a variety of phages
  6. Look to see if the success rate of the bacteria was reduced (a reduction in “efficiency of plating”)

Conclusion: The nine new defense systems were named after mythological gods, goddesses, and spirits that served protective roles.

Link to paper: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2018/01/29/science.aar4120

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