The infection of a bacterium by a phage starts with attachment to a receptor molecule on the host cell surface by the phage. Since receptor-phage interactions are crucial to successful infections, they are major determinants of phage host range and, by extension, of the broader effects that phages have on bacterial communities. Many receptor molecules, particularly membrane proteins, are difficult to isolate because their stability is supported by their native membrane environments. Styrene maleic acid lipid particles (SMALPs), a recent advance in membrane protein studies, are the result of membrane solubilizations by styrene maleic acid (SMA) copolymer chains. SMALPs thereby allow for isolation of membrane proteins while maintaining their native environment. Here, we explore SMALPs as a tool to isolate and study phage-receptor interactions. We show that SMALPs produced from taxonomically distant bacterial membranes allow for receptor-specific decrease of viable phage counts of several model phages that span the three largest phage families. After characterizing the effects of incubation time and SMALP concentration on the activity of three distinct phages, we present evidence that the interaction between two model phages and SMALPs is specific to bacterial species and the phage receptor molecule. These interactions additionally lead to DNA ejection by nearly all particles at high phage titers. We conclude that SMALPs are a potentially highly useful tool for phage-host interaction studies.IMPORTANCE Bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria or phages) impact every microbial community. All phage infections start with the binding of the viral particle to a specific receptor molecule on the host cell surface. Due to its importance in phage infections, this first step is of interest to many phage-related research and applications. However, many phage receptors are difficult to isolate. Styrene maleic acid lipid particles (SMALPs) are a recently developed approach to isolate membrane proteins in their native environment. In this study, we explore SMALPs as a tool to study phage-receptor interactions. We find that different phage species bind to SMALPs, while maintaining specificity to their receptor. We then characterize the time and concentration dependence of phage-SMALP interactions and furthermore show that they lead to genome ejection by the phage. The results presented here show that SMALPs are a useful tool for future studies of phage-receptor interactions.
- outer membrane proteins
- phage-host interactions