Functional metagenomic screening for novel antiphage defense systems

Genome mining has resulted in the discovery of an incredible diversity of antiviral systems in prokaryotes. There is reason to believe these recent discoveries have only just scratched the surface of the true extent of antiviral immunity in nature. Thus, we are developing high-throughput techniques for identification of antiviral immune systems in bacteria. Using NEB’s in-house functional metagenomics platform, we are performing screens for gene cassettes that provide resistance to viruses and other mobile genetic elements, and interrogating the function newly identified immune proteins using genetics and biochemistry.

An array of bacterial strains encoding pieces of environmental were challenged with bacterial viruses (phages). Survivors grow and form colonies (boxed in red), and may encode new antiphage defense systems. Our lab is developing high-throughput methods like this both for discovery of new immune mechanisms and for characterization of their functions.