Congratulations to Ron Dy, who recently completed his PhD in Peter Fineran's lab.
Thesis title: Investigation of the functional link between abortive infection and toxin-antitoxin systems.
Microorganisms, including bacteria and viruses, do not exist in isolation but shape intricate ecological interaction webs. While symbiotic interactions thrive in ecosystems, vulnerable species from non-mutual relationships require continuing adaptation to maintain fitness, if not, face the consequence of extinction. In my PhD, I investigated an altruistic strategy used by bacteria to outwit their viral predators. Abortive infection (Abi) systems are suicide modules activated after infection to restrict viral reproduction within hosts and limit the spread of infectious progeny to the bacterial population. An Abi family functioned through a toxin-antitoxin (TA) mechanism, organised so that the toxic protein is neutralised and regulated by an antidote protein. TA systems are known to maintain accessory genetic elements and help bacteria cope with various stresses. Thus, this study supports that Abi and TA systems overlap, both of which might enable bacteria to cope with detrimental conditions and resist viral infections.