Surface resistance to SSVs and SIRVs in pilin deletions of Sulfolobus islandicus

Elizabeth F. Rowland, Maria A. Bautista, Changyi Zhang, Rachel J. Whitaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Characterizing the molecular interactions of viruses in natural microbial populations offers insights into virus–host dynamics in complex ecosystems. We identify the resistance of Sulfolobus islandicus to Sulfolobus spindle-shaped virus (SSV9) conferred by chromosomal deletions of pilin genes, pilA1 and pilA2 that are individually able to complement resistance. Mutants with deletions of both pilA1 and pilA2 or the prepilin peptidase, PibD, show the reduction in the number of pilins observed in TEM and reduced surface adherence but still adsorb SSV9. The proteinaceous outer S-layer proteins, SlaA and SlaB, are not required for adsorption nor infection demonstrating that the S-layer is not the primary receptor for SSV9 surface binding. Strains lacking both pilins are resistant to a broad panel of SSVs as well as a panel of unrelated S. islandicus rod-shaped viruses (SIRVs). Unlike SSV9, we show that pilA1 or pilA2 is required for SIRV8 adsorption. In sequenced Sulfolobus strains from around the globe, one copy of each pilA1 and pilA2 is maintained and show codon-level diversification, demonstrating their importance in nature. By characterizing the molecular interactions at the initiation of infection between S. islandicus and two different types of viruses we hope to increase the understanding of virus–host interactions in the archaeal domain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)718-727
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • S-layer
  • SIRV
  • SSV
  • Sulfolobus islandicus
  • archaea
  • pilin
  • resistance
  • virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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