Molecular piracy: Redirection of bacteriophage capsid assembly by mobile genetic elements

Academic Article


  • Horizontal transfer of mobile genetic elements (MGEs) is a key aspect of the evolution of bacterial pathogens. Transduction by bacteriophages is especially important in this process. Bacteriophages—which assemble a machinery for effcient encapsidation and transfer of genetic material—often transfer MGEs and other chromosomal DNA in a more-or-less nonspecific low-frequency process known as generalized transduction. However, some MGEs have evolved highly specific mechanisms to take advantage of bacteriophages for their own propagation and high-frequency transfer while strongly interfering with phage production—"molecular piracy". These mechanisms include the ability to sense the presence of a phage entering lytic growth, specific recognition and packaging of MGE genomes into phage capsids, and the redirection of the phage assembly pathway to form capsids with a size more appropriate for the size of the MGE. This review focuses on the process of assembly redirection, which has evolved convergently in many different MGEs from across the bacterial universe. The diverse mechanisms that exist suggest that size redirection is an evolutionarily advantageous strategy for many MGEs.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • Viruses  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Dokland T
  • Volume

  • 11
  • Issue

  • 11