On the Occurrence and Multimerization of Two-Polypeptide Phage Endolysins Encoded in Single Genes

Daniela Pinto, Raquel Gonçalo, Mariana Louro, Marta Sousa Silva, Guillem Hernandez, Tiago N. Cordeiro, Carlos Cordeiro, Carlos São-José

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Bacteriophages (phages) and other viruses are extremely efficient in packing their genetic information, with several described cases of overlapping genes encoded in different open reading frames (ORFs). While less frequently reported, specific cases exist in which two overlapping ORFs are in frame and share the stop codon. Here, we studied the occurrence of this genetic arrangement in endolysins, the phage enzymes that cut the bacterial cell wall peptidoglycan to release the virion progeny. After screening over 3,000 endolysin sequences of phages infecting Gram-positive bacteria, we found evidence that this coding strategy is frequent in endolysin genes. Our bioinformatics predictions were experimentally validated by demonstrating that two polypeptides are indeed produced from these genes. Additionally, we show that in some cases the two polypeptides need to interact and multimerize to generate the active endolysin. By studying in detail one selected example, we uncovered a heteromeric endolysin with a 1:5 subunit stoichiometry that has never been described before. Hence, we conclude that the occurrence of endolysin genes encoding two polypeptide isoforms by in-frame overlapping ORFs, as well as their organization as enzymatic complexes, appears more common than previously thought, therefore challenging the established view of endolysins being mostly formed by single, monomeric polypeptide chains.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMicrobiology Spectrum
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • bacteriophage
  • bacteriophage lysis
  • cell wall
  • endolysin
  • overlapping genes
  • protein complex
  • protein isoforms


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