The perpetual arms race between bacteria and their viruses (phages) has given rise to diverse immune systems, including restriction-modification and CRISPR-Cas, which sense and degrade phage-derived nucleic acids. These complex systems rely upon production and maintenance of multiple components to achieve antiphage defense. However, the prevalence and effectiveness of minimal, single-component systems that cleave DNA remain unknown. Here, we describe a unique mode of nucleic acid immunity mediated by a single enzyme with nuclease and helicase activities, herein referred to as Nhi (nuclease-helicase immunity). This enzyme provides robust protection against diverse staphylococcal phages and prevents phage DNA accumulation in cells stripped of all other known defenses. Our observations support a model in which Nhi targets and degrades phage-specific replication intermediates. Importantly, Nhi homologs are distributed in diverse bacteria and exhibit functional conservation, highlighting the versatility of such compact weapons as major players in antiphage defense.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Journal||Cell Host and Microbe|
|State||Published - Apr 13 2022|
- antiphage defense
- bacterial innate immunity
- bacteriophage restriction
ASJC Scopus subject areas