Replication protein Rep provides selective advantage to viruses in the presence of CRISPR-Cas immunity (4 tweets)

Prokaryotic viruses express anti-CRISPR (Acr) proteins to inhibit the host adaptive immune system, CRISPR-Cas. While the virus infection biology was shown to be strongly dependent on the relative strengths of the host CRISPR-Cas and viral Acrs, little is known about the role of the core processes of viral life cycle (replication, packaging etc) in defence/anti-defence arms race. Here, we demonstrate the selective advantage provided by a replication initiator, Rep, in the context of CRISPR-Acr interactions. First, we developed a two-host based CRISPR-Cas genome editing tool for the deletion of highly conserved and thus potentially important viral genes. Using this strategy, we deleted a highly conserved Rep-coding gene, gp16, from the genome of Sulfolobus islandicus rod-shaped virus 2 (SIRV2). The knockout mutant (Δgp16) produced around 4 fold less virus in a CRISPR-null host, suggesting that Rep is the major contributor to replication initiation in Rudiviridae. Indeed, DNA sequencing revealed Rep-dependent replication initiation from the viral genome termini, in addition to Rep-independent replication initiation from non-terminal sites. Intriguingly, the lack of Rep showed a profound effect on virus propagation in a host carrying CRISPR-Cas immunity. Accordingly, the co-infecting parental virus (rep-containing) outcompeted the Δgp16 mutant much more quickly in CRISPR-containing host than in CRISPR-null host, demonstrating a selective advantage provided by Rep in the presence of host CRISPR-Cas immunity. Despite the non-essentiality, rep is carried by all known members of Rudiviridae, which is likely an evolutionary outcome driven by the ubiquitous presence of CRISPR-Cas in Sulfolobales.

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