is an abundant marine cyanobacterium that significantly contributes to primary production. Lytic phages are thought to have a major impact on cyanobacterial population dynamics and evolution. Previously, an investigation of the transcriptional response of three Synechococcus
strains to infection by the T4-like cyanomyovirus, Syn9, revealed that while the transcript levels of the vast majority of host genes declined soon after infection, those for some genes increased or remained stable. In order to assess the role of two such host-response genes during infection, we inactivated them in Synechococcus
sp. strain WH8102. One gene, SYNW1659, encodes a domain of unknown function (DUF3387) that is associated with restriction enzymes. The second gene, SYNW1946, encodes a PIN-PhoH protein, of which the PIN domain is common in bacterial toxin-antitoxin systems. Neither of the inactivation mutations impacted host growth or the length of the Syn9 lytic cycle. However, the DUF3387 mutant supported significantly lower phage DNA replication and yield of phage progeny than the wild-type, suggesting that the product of this host gene aids phage production. The PIN-PhoH mutant, on the other hand, allowed for significantly higher Syn9 genomic DNA replication and progeny production, suggesting that this host gene plays a role in restraining the infection process. Our findings indicate that host-response genes play a functional role during infection and suggest that some function in an attempt at defense against the phage, while others are exploited by the phage for improved infection.
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