Phages Mediate Bacterial Self-Recognition

Sooyeon Song, Yunxue Guo, Jun Seob Kim, Xiaoxue Wang, Thomas K. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Cells are social, and self-recognition is a conserved aspect of group behavior where cells assist kin and antagonize non-kin. However, the role of phage in self-recognition is unexplored. Here we find that a demarcation line is formed between different swimming Escherichia coli strains but not between identical clones; hence, motile cells discriminate between self and non-self. The basis for this self-recognition is a 49 kb, T1-type, lytic phage of the family Siphoviridae (named here SW1) that controls formation of the demarcation line by utilizing one of the host's cryptic prophage proteins, YfdM of CPS-53, to propagate. Critically, SW1 provides a conditional benefit to E. coli K-12 compared with the identical strain that lacks the phage. A demarcation line is also formed when strains harbor either the lysogenic phage ϕ80 or lambda and encounter siblings that lack the lysogen. In summary, bacteria can use phage to distinguish siblings that lack phage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)737-749.e4
JournalCell Reports
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 16 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Phages Mediate Bacterial Self-Recognition'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this