The hok (host killing) and sok (suppressor of killing) genes (hok/sok) efficiently maintain the low-copy-number plasmid R1. To investigate whether the hok/sok locus evolved as a phage-exclusion mechanism, Escherichia coli cells that contain hok/sok on a pBR322-based plasmid were challenged with T1, T4, T5, T7, and λ phage. Upon infection with T4, the optical density of cells containing hok/sok on a high-copy-number plasmid continued to increase whereas the optical density for those lacking hok/sok rapidly declined. The presence of hok/sok reduced the efficiency of plating of T4 by 42% and decreased the plaque size by ~85%. Single-step growth experiments demonstrated that hok/sok decreased the T4 burst size by 40%, increased the time to form mature phage (eclipse time) from 22 to 30 min, and increased the time to cell lysis (latent period) from 30 to 60 min. These results further suggest that single cells exhibit altruistic behavior.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology