The human intestine harbors diverse communities of bacteria and bacteriophages. Given the specificity of phages for their bacterial hosts, there is growing interest in using phage therapies to combat the rising incidence of multidrug-resistant bacterial infections. A significant barrier to such therapies is the rapid development of phage-resistant bacteria, highlighting the need to understand how bacteria acquire phage resistance in vivo. Here we identify novel lytic phages in municipal raw sewage that kill Enterococcus faecalis, a Gram-positive opportunistic pathogen that resides in the human intestine. We show that phage infection of E. faecalis requires a predicted integral membrane protein that we have named PIPEF (for phage infection protein from E. faecalis). We find that PIPEF is conserved in E. faecalis and harbors a 160-amino-acid hypervariable region that determines phage tropism for distinct enterococcal strains. Finally, we use a gnotobiotic mouse model of in vivo phage predation to show that the sewage phages temporarily reduce E. faecalis colonization of the intestine but that E. faecalis acquires phage resistance through mutations in PIPEF. Our findings define the molecular basis for an evolutionary arms race between E. faecalis and the lytic phages that prey on them. They also suggest approaches for engineering E. faecalis phages that have altered host specificity and that can subvert phage resistance in the host bacteria.
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