How Bacteria Recognize Viral Invasion and Activate Immune Defenses

Bacteriophage

There’s no organism on earth that lives free of threat—including bacteria. Predatory viruses known as phages are among their most dire foes, infiltrating their cells to replicate and take over. Bacteria have evolved an array of strategies to counter these infections, but how they first spot an invader in their midst has long been a mystery. Now, researchers in the Laboratory of Bacteriology at The Rockefeller University have discovered that bacteria sense phages via a defensive response called CBASS (cyclic-oligonucleotide-based anti-phage signaling system) that detects viral RNA—findings that one day may help counter the threat of antibiotic resistance. They published the results on November 15, 2023 in Nature. The open-access article is titled “Bacterial cGAS Senses a Viral RNA to Initiate Immunity.” “How CBASS is activated by phage infection has been a big unknown in our field for many years,” says Luciano Marraffini, PhD, head of the lab. “Until now, no one has understood what triggers the bacteria to initiate the CBASS immune response.”

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