Cryptic prophages as targets for drug development

Xiaoxue Wang, Thomas K. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Bacterial chromosomes may contain up to 20% phage DNA that encodes diverse proteins ranging from those for photosynthesis to those for autoimmunity; hence, phages contribute greatly to the metabolic potential of pathogens. Active prophages carrying genes encoding virulence factors and antibiotic resistance can be excised from the host chromosome to form active phages and are transmissible among different bacterial hosts upon SOS responses. Cryptic prophages are artifacts of mutagenesis in which lysogenic phage are captured in the bacterial chromosome: they may excise but they do not form active phage particles or lyse their captors. Hence, cryptic prophages are relatively permanent reservoirs of genes, many of which benefit pathogens, in ways we are just beginning to discern. Here we explore the role of active prophage- and cryptic prophage-derived proteins in terms of (i) virulence, (ii) antibiotic resistance, and (iii) antibiotic tolerance; antibiotic tolerance occurs as a result of the non-heritable phenotype of dormancy which is a result of activation of toxins of toxin/antitoxin loci that are frequently encoded in cryptic prophages. Therefore, cryptic prophages are promising targets for drug development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-38
Number of pages9
JournalDrug Resistance Updates
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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