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Jun 2014 Genome biology and evolution

Composite conserved promoter-terminator motifs (PeSLs) that mediate modular shuffling in the diverse T4-like myoviruses.


Comeau AM, Arbiol C, Krisch HM


The diverse T4-like phages (Tquatrovirinae) infect a wide array of gram-negative bacterial hosts. The genome architecture of these phages is generally well conserved, most of the phylogenetically variable genes being grouped together in a series hyperplastic regions (HPRs) that are interspersed among large blocks of conserved core genes. Recent evidence from a pair of closely related T4-like phages has suggested that small, composite terminator/promoter sequences (promoterearly stem loop [PeSLs]) were implicated in mediating the high levels of genetic plasticity by indels occurring within the HPRs. Here, we present the genome sequence analysis of two T4-like phages, PST (168 kb, 272 open reading frames [ORFs]) and nt-1 (248 kb, 405 ORFs). These two phages were chosen for comparative sequence analysis because, although they are closely related to phages that have been previously sequenced (T4 and KVP40, respectively), they have different host ranges. In each case, one member of the pair infects a bacterial strain that is a human pathogen, whereas the other phage’s host is a nonpathogen. Despite belonging to phylogenetically distant branches of the T4-likes, these pairs of phage have diverged from each other in part by a mechanism apparently involving PeSL-mediated recombination. This analysis confirms a role of PeSL sequences in the generation of genomic diversity by serving as a point of genetic exchange between otherwise unrelated sequences within the HPRs. Finally, the palette of divergent genes swapped by PeSL-mediated homologous recombination is discussed in the context of the PeSLs’ potentially important role in facilitating phage adaption to new hosts and environments.

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