Gene Transfer Agents: the life and times of a selfless virus

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


Abstract: Gene transfer agents (GTAs) are an unusual group of viruses that have the potential to carry out high frequency, indiscriminate horizontal gene transfer. GTAs are found in diverse prokaryotes and resemble classical bacteriophages in many ways. The main distinguishing feature of all GTAs is that they package and disseminate the entire genome of their bacterial host without preference for the spread of their own genes – a trait that is in stark contrast to the typical priorities of a virus. The precise role of GTAs is still unknown but the ability to transfer any gene could have a major impact on bacterial evolution, fitness, immunity or antimicrobial resistance.

Over the past decade, it has been demonstrated that GTA production is under the influence of various pleiotropic regulators (e.g. RelA/SpoT - stringent response, quorum sensing, LexA - SOS response, CtrA etc.); however, all act indirectly and the mechanism of GTA activation has remained elusive. In this talk, I will present recent work that identified the missing link that directly couples GTA production to host regulatory pathways and allowed the first integrated regulatory model to be constructed. I will also review recent developments in the field and offer insights into the quirks of GTA biology that set them apart from bacteriophages.

Period16 Oct 2020
Held atNorthumbria University, United Kingdom