Recessive Host Range Mutants and Unsusceptible Cells That Inactivate Virions without Genome Penetration: Ecological and Technical Implications

Aaron P. Roznowski, Robert J. Young, Samuel D. Love, Avenetti A. Andromita, Vanessa A. Guzman, Margaret H. Wilch, Ava Block, Anne McGill, Martine Lavelle, Anastasia Romanova, Aimi Sekiguchi, Meixiao Wang, April D. Burch, Bentley A Fane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Although microviruses do not possess a visible tail structure, one vertex rearranges after interacting with host lipopolysaccharides. Most examinations of host range, eclipse, and penetration were conducted before this "host-induced" unique vertex was discovered and before DNA sequencing became routine. Consequently, structure-function relationships dictating host range remain undefined. Biochemical and genetic analyses were conducted with two closely related microviruses, α3 and ST-1. Despite ∼90% amino acid identity, the natural host of α3 is Escherichia coli C, whereas ST-1 is a K-12-specific phage. Virions attached and eclipsed to both native and unsusceptible hosts; however, they breached only the native host's cell wall. This suggests that unsusceptible host-phage interactions promote off-pathway reactions that can inactivate viruses without penetration. This phenomenon may have broader ecological implications. To determine which structural proteins conferred host range specificity, chimeric virions were generated by individually interchanging the coat, spike, or DNA pilot proteins. Interchanging the coat protein switched host range. However, host range expansion could be conferred by single point mutations in the coat protein. The expansion phenotype was recessive: genetically mutant progeny from coinfected cells did not display the phenotype. Thus, mutant isolation required populations generated in environments with low multiplicities of infection (MOI), a phenomenon that may have impacted past host range studies in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic systems. The resulting genetic and structural data were consistent enough that host range expansion could be predicted, broadening the classical definition of antireceptors to include interfaces between protein complexes within the capsid.IMPORTANCE To expand host range, viruses must interact with unsusceptible host cell surfaces, which could be detrimental. As observed in this study, virions were inactivated without genome penetration. This may be advantageous to potential new hosts, culling the viral population from which an expanded host range mutant could emerge. When identified, altered host range mutations were recessive. Accordingly, isolation required populations generated in low-MOI environments. However, in laboratory settings, viral propagation includes high-MOI conditions. Typically, infected cultures incubate until all cells produce progeny. Thus, coinfections dominate later replication cycles, masking recessive host range expansion phenotypes. This may have impacted similar studies with other viruses. Last, structural and genetic data could be used to predict site-directed mutant phenotypes, which may broaden the classic antireceptor definition to include interfaces between capsid complexes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019


  • bacteriophage evolution
  • bacteriophage genetics
  • genome penetration
  • host range
  • Microviridae
  • unsusceptible host
  • virus-host interactions
  • φX174

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology

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    Roznowski, A. P., Young, R. J., Love, S. D., Andromita, A. A., Guzman, V. A., Wilch, M. H., Block, A., McGill, A., Lavelle, M., Romanova, A., Sekiguchi, A., Wang, M., Burch, A. D., & Fane, B. A. (2019). Recessive Host Range Mutants and Unsusceptible Cells That Inactivate Virions without Genome Penetration: Ecological and Technical Implications. Journal of virology, 93(3).