Moselio Schaechter

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« A Wormful of Bugs | Main | Retrospective, December 2011 »

December 15, 2011

Talmudic Question #82

Are there any surface structures or components on bacteria that are NOT used as receptors by some phage?


I definitely agree with Ami. If there is something that isn't used currently as a receptor, I'm sure there will be some viral adaptation to it sooner rather than later. Not sure I agree with Curt's idea that an essential component-turned-receptor would be the death knell for the virus, though. Odds are that a bacterium would have several copies of that protein present just for the redundancy, and if the phage was temperate and not something that automatically induced a lytic cycle upon entering the cell it's possible that the bacterium would keep the phage surviving longer (especially if the phage encoded something useful).

I think that the answer is YES, but a full answer would be: YES, BUT NOT FOR LONG.
I agree with Curt, but still think that eventually even membrane components that are absolutely essential for life in any environment will be a target. This is probably one of the extinction mechanisms.

are there phage known to use curli fibers as a receptor?

My guess is any membrane component that is absolutely essential for life in all environments is unlikely to be a target. The thinking being that no resistance could ever develop against such a phage. Thus the phage would assault their host to extinction, and in so doing, sign their own death warrant as well.

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