Among dsDNA tailed bacteriophages (Caudovirales), members of the Myoviridae family have the most sophisticated virion design that includes a complex contractile tail structure. The Myoviridae generally have larger genomes than the other phage families. Relatively few “dwarf” myoviruses, those with a genome size of less than 50 kb such as those of the Mu group, have been analyzed in extenso. Here we report on the genome sequencing and morphological characterization of a new group of such phages that infect a diverse range of Proteobacteria, namely Aeromonas salmonicida phage 56, Vibrio cholerae phages 138 and CP-T1, Bdellovibrio phage φ1422, and Pectobacterium carotovorum phage ZF40. This group of dwarf myoviruses shares an identical virion morphology, characterized by usually short contractile tails, and have genome sizes of approximately 45 kb. Although their genome sequences are variable in their lysogeny, replication, and host adaption modules, presumably reflecting differing lifestyles and hosts, their structural and morphogenesis modules have been evolutionarily constrained by their virion morphology. Comparative genomic analysis reveals that these phages, along with related prophage genomes, form a new coherent group within the Myoviridae. The results presented in this communication support the hypothesis that the diversity of phages may be more structured than generally believed and that the innumerable phages in the biosphere all belong to discrete lineages or families.
A total of 33 Rhizobium meliloti bacteriophages were studied. Of those, 21 were isolated in northern France from field soil in which Medicago sativa L. was grown. The other 12 phages were obtained by UV light and mitomycin C induction from 46 R. meliloti strains. Rhizobiophages were characterized by their morphology, host range, serological properties, restriction endonuclease patterns, DNA-DNA homologies, and DNA molecular weights. Five morphotypes were observed showing tailed phages with icosahedral heads. The categories of morphotypes included the Myoviridae (11 phages), Siphoviridae (3 morphotypes and 20 phages), and Podoviridae (2 phages). Type NM1 phage (Siphoviridae) is highly unusual because of the presence of transverse bars on the phage tail. Soil phages had broad host ranges, whereas phages isolated from bacterial cultures showed more or less narrow host ranges. Restriction endonuclease patterns and DNA-DNA hybridization experiments showed that the five phage type genomes were unrelated. Molecular weights of phage type DNAs were estimated, and they corresponded to values expected for capsid sizes, except for phage NM8. Type φM11S (Siphoviridae) did not correspond to any other described Rhizobium phages and represents a new species.
The complete genome of φEcoM-GJ1, a lytic phage that attacks porcine enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli of serotype O149:H10:F4, was sequenced and analyzed. The morphology of the phage and the identity of the structural proteins were also determined. The genome consisted of 52,975 bp with a G+C content of 44% and was terminally redundant and circularly permuted. Seventy-five potential open reading frames (ORFs) were identified and annotated, but only 29 possessed homologs. The proteins of five ORFs showed homology with proteins of phages of the family Myoviridae, nine with proteins of phages of the family Podoviridae, and six with proteins of phages of the family Siphoviridae. ORF 1 encoded a T7-like single-subunit RNA polymerase and was preceded by a putative E. coli σ70-like promoter. Nine putative phage promoters were detected throughout the genome. The genome included a tRNA gene of 95 bp that had a putative 18-bp intron. The phage morphology was typical of phages of the family Myoviridae, with an icosahedral head, a neck, and a long contractile tail with tail fibers. The analysis shows that φEcoM-GJ1 is unique, having the morphology of the Myoviridae, a gene for RNA polymerase, which is characteristic of phages of the T7 group of the Podoviridae, and several genes that encode proteins with homology to proteins of phages of the family Siphoviridae.
Direct electron microscopy of bacteriophages adsorbed to a carbon film without prior enrichment by specific host strains or concentration by physical or chemical methods was used to study the morphological diversity of natural bacteriophage assemblages in a North German lake. All samples contained a mixture of morphologically different tailed viruses, which were regarded as bacteriophages. Most of them had isometric heads and long noncontractile tails, belonging to morphotype B1 (Siphoviridae). In addition, members of morphotypes A1 (Myoviridae), B2 (Siphoviridae with elongated heads), and C1 (Podoviridae) were present in lower numbers. Only one cubic virus was detected, while no filamentous or pleomorphic phages were found. Up to 11 different phages per sample, and a total of 39 phages when all samples were considered together, could be distinguished by morphological criteria. The total number of phages was estimated to be on the order of 108/ml.
To understand the ecological and genetic role of viruses in the marine environment, it is critical to know the infectivity of viruses and the types of interactions that occur between marine viruses and their hosts. We isolated four marine phages from turbid plaques by using four indigenous bacterial hosts obtained from concentrated water samples from Mamala Bay, Oahu, Hawaii. Two of the rod-shaped bacterial hosts were identified as Sphingomonas paucimobilis and Flavobacterium sp. All of the phage isolates were tailed phages and contained double-stranded DNA. Two of the phage isolates had morphologies typical of the family Siphoviridae, while the other two belonged to the families Myoviridae and Podoviridae. The head diameters of these viruses ranged from 47 to 70.7 nm, and the tail lengths ranged from 12 to 146 nm. The burst sizes ranged from 7.8 to 240 phage/bacterial cell, and the genome sizes, as determined by restriction digestion, ranged from 36 to 112 kb. The members of the Siphoviridae, T-φHSIC, and T-φD0, and the member of the Myoviridae, T-φD1B, were found to form lysogenic associations with their bacterial hosts, which were isolated from the same water samples. Hybridization of phage T-φHSIC probe with lysogenic host genomic DNA was observed in dot blot hybridization experiments, indicating that prophage T-φHSIC was integrated within the host genome. These phage-host systems are available for use in studies of marine lysogeny and transduction.
A new Salmonella enterica phage, Det7, was isolated from sewage and shown by electron microscopy to belong to the Myoviridae morphogroup of bacteriophages. Det7 contains a 75-kDa protein with 50% overall sequence identity to the tail spike endorhamnosidase of podovirus P22. Adsorption of myoviruses to their bacterial hosts is normally mediated by long and short tail fibers attached to a contractile tail, whereas podoviruses do not contain fibers but attach to host cells through stubby tail spikes attached to a very short, noncontractile tail. The amino-terminal 150 residues of the Det7 protein lack homology to the P22 tail spike and are probably responsible for binding to the base plate of the myoviral tail. Det7 tail spike lacking this putative particle-binding domain was purified from Escherichia coli, and well-diffracting crystals of the protein were obtained. The structure, determined by molecular replacement and refined at a 1.6-Å resolution, is very similar to that of bacteriophage P22 tail spike. Fluorescence titrations with an octasaccharide suggest Det7 tail spike to bind its receptor lipopolysaccharide somewhat less tightly than the P22 tail spike. The Det7 tail spike is even more resistant to thermal unfolding than the already exceptionally stable homologue from P22. Folding and assembly of both trimeric proteins are equally temperature sensitive and equally slow. Despite the close structural, biochemical, and sequence similarities between both proteins, the Det7 tail spike lacks both carboxy-terminal cysteines previously proposed to form a transient disulfide during P22 tail spike assembly. Our data suggest receptor-binding module exchange between podoviruses and myoviruses in the course of bacteriophage evolution.
A diverse set of 24 novel phages infecting the fire blight pathogen Erwinia amylovora was isolated from fruit production environments in Switzerland. Based on initial screening, four phages (L1, M7, S6, and Y2) with broad host ranges were selected for detailed characterization and genome sequencing. Phage L1 is a member of the Podoviridae, with a 39.3-kbp genome featuring invariable genome ends with direct terminal repeats. Phage S6, another podovirus, was also found to possess direct terminal repeats but has a larger genome (74.7 kbp), and the virus particle exhibits a complex tail fiber structure. Phages M7 and Y2 both belong to the Myoviridae family and feature long, contractile tails and genomes of 84.7 kbp (M7) and 56.6 kbp (Y2), respectively, with direct terminal repeats. The architecture of all four phage genomes is typical for tailed phages, i.e., organized into function-specific gene clusters. All four phages completely lack genes or functions associated with lysogeny control, which correlates well with their broad host ranges and indicates strictly lytic (virulent) lifestyles without the possibility for host lysogenization. Comparative genomics revealed that M7 is similar to E. amylovora virus ΦEa21-4, whereas L1, S6, and Y2 are unrelated to any other E. amylovora phage. Instead, they feature similarities to enterobacterial viruses T7, N4, and ΦEcoM-GJ1. In a series of laboratory experiments, we provide proof of concept that specific two-phage cocktails offer the potential for biocontrol of the pathogen.
We present the genome sequence of a novel Edwardsiella tarda-lytic bacteriophage, MSW-3, which specifically infects atypical E. tarda strains. The morphological and genomic features of MSW-3 suggest that this phage is a new member of the dwarf myoviruses, which have been much less studied than other groups of myoviruses.
Prophages are encoded in most genomes of sequenced Clostridium difficile strains. They are key components of the mobile genetic elements and, as such, are likely to influence the biology of their host strains. The majority of these phages are not amenable to propagation, and therefore the development of a molecular marker is a useful tool with which to establish the extent and diversity of C. difficile prophage carriage within clinical strains. To design markers, several candidate genes were analyzed including structural and holin genes. The holin gene is the only gene present in all sequenced phage genomes, conserved at both terminals, with a variable mid-section. This allowed us to design two sets of degenerate PCR primers specific to C. difficile myoviruses and siphoviruses. Subsequent PCR analysis of 16 clinical C. difficile ribotypes showed that 15 of them are myovirus positive, and 2 of them are also siphovirus positive. Antibiotic induction and transmission electron microscope analysis confirmed the molecular prediction of myoviruses and/or siphovirus presence. Phylogenetic analysis of the holin sequences identified three groups of C. difficile phages, two within the myoviruses and a divergent siphovirus group. The marker also produced tight groups within temperate phages that infect other taxa, including Clostridium perfringens, Clostridium botulinum, and Bacillus spp., which suggests the potential application of the holin gene to study prophage carriage in other bacteria. This study reveals the high incidence of prophage carriage in clinically relevant strains of C. difficile and correlates the molecular data to the morphological observation.
Lactococcus lactis phage P335 is a virulent type phage for the species that bears its name and belongs to the Siphoviridae family. Morphologically, P335 resembled the L. lactis phages TP901-1 and Tuc2009, except for a shorter tail and a different collar/whisker structure. Its 33,613-bp double-stranded DNA genome had 50 open reading frames. Putative functions were assigned to 29 of them. Unlike other sequenced genomes from lactococcal phages belonging to this species, P335 did not have a lysogeny module. However, it did carry a dUTPase gene, the most conserved gene among this phage species. Comparative genomic analyses revealed a high level of identity between the morphogenesis modules of the phages P335, ul36, TP901-1, and Tuc2009 and two putative prophages of L. lactis SK11. Differences were noted in genes coding for receptor-binding proteins, in agreement with their distinct host ranges. Sixteen structural proteins of phage P335 were identified by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. A 2.8-kb insertion was recognized between the putative genes coding for the activator of late transcription (Alt) and the small terminase subunit (TerS). Four genes within this region were autonomously late transcribed and possibly under the control of Alt. Three of the four deduced proteins had similarities with proteins from Streptococcus pyogenes prophages, suggesting that P335 acquired this module from another phage genome. The genetic diversity of the P335 species indicates that they are exceptional models for studying the modular theory of phage evolution.
The oceanic cyanobacteria Prochlorococcus are globally important, ecologically diverse primary producers. It is thought that their viruses (phages) mediate population sizes and affect the evolutionary trajectories of their hosts. Here we present an analysis of genomes from three Prochlorococcus phages: a podovirus and two myoviruses. The morphology, overall genome features, and gene content of these phages suggest that they are quite similar to T7-like (P-SSP7) and T4-like (P-SSM2 and P-SSM4) phages. Using the existing phage taxonomic framework as a guideline, we examined genome sequences to establish “core” genes for each phage group. We found the podovirus contained 15 of 26 core T7-like genes and the two myoviruses contained 43 and 42 of 75 core T4-like genes. In addition to these core genes, each genome contains a significant number of “cyanobacterial” genes, i.e., genes with significant best BLAST hits to genes found in cyanobacteria. Some of these, we speculate, represent “signature” cyanophage genes. For example, all three phage genomes contain photosynthetic genes (psbA, hliP) that are thought to help maintain host photosynthetic activity during infection, as well as an aldolase family gene (talC) that could facilitate alternative routes of carbon metabolism during infection. The podovirus genome also contains an integrase gene (int) and other features that suggest it is capable of integrating into its host. If indeed it is, this would be unprecedented among cultured T7-like phages or marine cyanophages and would have significant evolutionary and ecological implications for phage and host. Further, both myoviruses contain phosphate-inducible genes (phoH and pstS) that are likely to be important for phage and host responses to phosphate stress, a commonly limiting nutrient in marine systems. Thus, these marine cyanophages appear to be variations of two well-known phages—T7 and T4—but contain genes that, if functional, reflect adaptations for infection of photosynthetic hosts in low-nutrient oceanic environments.
An analysis of the genome sequences of three phages capable of infecting marine unicellular cyanobacteria Prochlorococcus reveals they are genetically complex with intriguing adaptations related to their oceanic environment
A number of bacteriophages have been identified that target the Vi capsular antigen of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi. Here we show that these Vi phages represent a remarkably diverse set of phages belonging to three phage families, including Podoviridae and Myoviridae. Genome analysis facilitated the further classification of these phages and highlighted aspects of their independent evolution. Significantly, a conserved protein domain carrying an acetyl esterase was found to be associated with at least one tail fiber gene for all Vi phages, and the presence of this domain was confirmed in representative phage particles by mass spectrometric analysis. Thus, we provide a simple explanation and paradigm of how a diverse group of phages target a single key virulence antigen associated with this important human-restricted pathogen.
The hypervirulent Clostridium difficile ribotype 027 can be classified into subtypes, but it unknown if these differ in terms of severity of C. difficile infection (CDI). Genomic studies of C. difficile 027 strains have established that they are rich in mobile genetic elements including prophages. This study combined physiological studies, electron microscopy analysis and molecular biology to determine the potential role of temperate bacteriophages in disease and diversity of C. difficile 027.
We induced prophages from 91 clinical C. difficile 027 isolates and used transmission electron microscopy and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis to characterise the bacteriophages present. We established a correlation between phage morphology and subtype. Morphologically distinct tailed bacteriophages belonging to Myoviridae and Siphoviridae were identified in 63 and three isolates, respectively. Dual phage carriage was observed in four isolates. In addition, there were inducible phage tail-like particles (PT-LPs) in all isolates. The capacity of two antibiotics mitomycin C and norfloxacin to induce prophages was compared and it was shown that they induced specific prophages from C. difficile isolates. A PCR assay targeting the capsid gene of the myoviruses was designed to examine molecular diversity of C. difficile myoviruses. Phylogenetic analysis of the capsid gene sequences from eight ribotypes showed that all sequences found in the ribotype 027 isolates were identical and distinct from other C. difficile ribotypes and other bacteria species.
A diverse set of temperate bacteriophages are associated with C. difficile 027. The observed correlation between phage carriage and the subtypes suggests that temperate bacteriophages contribute to the diversity of C. difficile 027 and may play a role in severity of disease associated with this ribotype. The capsid gene can be used as a tool to identify C. difficile myoviruses present within bacterial genomes.
We have developed phiSITE, database of gene regulation in bacteriophages. To date it contains detailed information about more than 700 experimentally confirmed or predicted regulatory elements (promoters, operators, terminators and attachment sites) from 32 bacteriophages belonging to Siphoviridae, Myoviridae and Podoviridae families. The database is manually curated, the data are collected mainly form scientific papers, cross-referenced with other database resources (EMBL, UniProt, NCBI taxonomy database, NCBI Genome, ICTVdb, PubMed Central) and stored in SQL based database system. The system provides full text search for regulatory elements, graphical visualization of phage genomes and several export options. In addition, visualizations of gene regulatory networks for five phages (Bacillus phage GA-1, Enterobacteria phage lambda, Enterobacteria phage Mu, Enterobacteria phage P2 and Mycoplasma phage P1) have been defined and made available. The phiSITE is accessible at http://www.phisite.org/.
Despite the fact that multidrug-resistant Klebsiella sp. strains emerge rapidly (Xu J, et al., Adv. Mater. Res. 268-270:1954-1956, 2011) and bacteriophages have been reported to be useful in controlling these bacteria (Kumari S, Harjai K, Chhibber S, J. Med. Microbiol. 60:205-210, 2011), the complete genome sequences of only five Klebsiella phages (four siphoviruses and one myovirus) can be found in databases. In this paper, we report on the complete genome sequence of Klebsiella sp.-infecting bacteriophage vB_KleM_RaK2. With a genome size of 345,809 bp, this is the second largest myovirus and the largest Klebsiella phage sequenced to date. This phage differs substantially from other myoviruses since 411 out of 534 vB_KleM_RaK2 open reading frames have no known functions and lack any reliable database matches. Comparative analysis of the genome sequence of vB_KleM_RaK2 suggests that this phage forms a distinct phylogenetic branch within the family Myoviridae of tailed bacteriophages.
A set of 22 phages of Listeria species (listeriaphages) (21 temperate and 1 virulent) were compared on the basis of morphology and protein composition. All 22 phages had icosahedral heads and exhibited either contractile or noncontractile tails. They represented two different morphotypes. Twenty phages belonged to the Siphoviridae family and could be differentiated only on the basis of tail length. Accordingly, they could be assigned to previously defined listeriaphage species. Two other phages were classified as members of the Myoviridae family, one of which (A511) should be regarded as a new species. It was found to be substantially different from all other known listeriaphages. All phages exhibited typical protein profiles, which were determined by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and subsequent laser densitometrical analysis of the gels. It was then possible to distinguish eight protein subgroups on the basis of unique protein patterns. This classification corresponds well to the previous groupings based on host range. Most of the phages revealed two or three major proteins ranging from 21 to 24 kDa and 30 to 36 kDa. In addition, at least 10 minor proteins could be observed for each phage. Our results indicate that the major proteins are structural proteins of the capsid and tail, and the protein band ranging from 30 to 35 kDa could clearly be assigned to the proteins of the phage capsid.
The tail structures of bacteriophages infecting gram-positive bacteria are largely unexplored, although the phage tail mediates the initial interaction with the host cell. The temperate Lactococcus lactis phage TP901-1 of the Siphoviridae family has a long noncontractile tail with a distal baseplate. In the present study, we investigated the distal tail structures and tail assembly of phage TP901-1 by introducing nonsense mutations into the late transcribed genes dit (orf46), talTP901-1 (orf47), bppU (orf48), bppL (orf49), and orf50. Transmission electron microscopy examination of mutant and wild-type TP901-1 phages showed that the baseplate consisted of two different disks and that a central tail fiber is protruding below the baseplate. Evaluation of the mutant tail morphologies with protein profiles and Western blots revealed that the upper and lower baseplate disks consist of the proteins BppU and BppL, respectively. Likewise, Dit and TalTP901-1 were shown to be structural tail proteins essential for tail formation, and TalTP901-1 was furthermore identified as the tail fiber protein by immunogold labeling experiments. Determination of infection efficiencies of the mutant phages showed that the baseplate is fundamental for host infection and the lower disk protein, BppL, is suggested to interact with the host receptor. In contrast, ORF50 was found to be nonessential for tail assembly and host infection. A model for TP901-1 tail assembly, in which the function of eight specific proteins is considered, is presented.
Six bacteriophages active against Leuconostoc fallax strains were isolated from industrial sauerkraut fermentation brines. These phages were characterized as to host range, morphology, structural proteins, and genome fingerprint. They were exclusively lytic against the species L. fallax and had different host ranges among the strains of this species tested. Morphologically, three of the phages were assigned to the family Siphoviridae, and the three others were assigned to the family Myoviridae. Major capsid proteins detected by electrophoresis were distinct for each of the two morphotypes. Restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis and randomly amplified polymorphic DNA fingerprinting showed that all six phages were genetically distinct. These results revealed for the first time the existence of bacteriophages that are active against L. fallax and confirmed the presence and diversity of bacteriophages in a sauerkraut fermentation. Since a variety of L. fallax strains have been shown to be present in sauerkraut fermentation, bacteriophages active against L. fallax are likely to contribute to the microbial ecology of sauerkraut fermentation and could be responsible for some of the variability observed in this type of fermentation.
The virulent Lactococcus lactis phage 949 was isolated in 1975 from cheese whey in New Zealand. This phage is a member of the Siphoviridae family and of a rare lactococcal phage group that bears its name (949 group). It has an icosahedral capsid (79-nm diameter) and a very long noncontractile tail (length, 500 nm; width, 12 nm). It infected 7 of 59 tested L. lactis strains, a somewhat expanded host range for a rare lactococcal phage. The abortive phage infection defense mechanisms AbiQ and AbiT strongly inhibited the multiplication of phage 949, but AbiK and AbiV did not. Its double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) genome of 114,768 bp is, to date, the largest among lactococcal phages. Its GC content was calculated at 32.7%, which is the lowest reported for a lactococcal phage. Its 154 open reading frames (ORFs) share limited identity with database sequences. In addition, terminal redundancy was observed as well as the presence of six tRNAs, one group I intron, and putative recombinases. SDS-PAGE coupled with mass spectrometry identified 13 structural proteins. The genomes of the members of the 10 currently known L. lactis phage groups were used to construct a proteomic tree. Each L. lactis phage group separated into distinct genetic clusters, validating the current classification scheme. Of note, members of the polythetic P335 groups were clearly separated into subgroups.
Bacteriophages were observed in forestomach contents from three species of Australian macropodoid marsupials possessing a foregut fermentative digestion: the eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus), the eastern wallaroo (Macropus robustus robustus), and the rufous bettong (Aepyprymnus rufescens). Forty-six morphologically distinct phage types, representing the families Myoviridae, Siphoviridae, and Podoviridae, were identified. The range of forms varied between host species. The greatest diversity of phage types was found in forestomach contents of the wallaroo, and few phage types were recorded from the rufous bettongs. It is concluded that macropodoid marsupials, in common with their eutherian counterparts, possess diverse populations of bacteriophages in their fermentative forestomachs.
Six phages (ΦCP6-1 to ΦCP6-6) that are commonly found in the phytosphere of sugar beet (Beta vulgaris var. Amethyst) were investigated, and their relative impacts on their host (Serratia liquefaciens CP6) were compared. There were fundamental differences between the two most abundant predators of CP6 (ΦCP6-1 and ΦCP6-4). Like ΦCP6-2 and ΦCP6-5, ΦCP6-1 belonged to the family Siphoviridae, while ΦCP6-4 exhibited the morphology of the family Podoviridae. The other phages were members of the family Myoviridae. DNA-DNA cross-hybridization revealed that ΦCP6-1 and ΦCP6-4 had little common DNA, although all of the other phages exhibited some genetic similarity. Like ΦCP6-2, ΦCP6-3, and ΦCP6-5, ΦCP6-1 was capable of forming a lysogenic association with its host, while ΦCP6-4 and ΦCP6-6 appeared to be entirely virulent. Single-step growth curve experiments revealed that ΦCP6-4 had a much shorter latent period and a smaller burst size than ΦCP6-1. Also, ΦCP6-1 could transduce a number of host chromosomal markers with transfer frequencies of 2.9 × 10−9 to 3.9 × 10−7, whereas ΦCP6-4 could not transduce S. liquefaciens CP6 genes. When viewed in the context of the strikingly different temporal niches of these phages, our data provide an insight into how bacteriophage interactions with their hosts might reflect the natural ecology of bacteriophages. Our data also illustrate how the potential for gene transfer changes over time in an environment that supports several different phages.
Summary: Bacteriophages belonging to the order Caudovirales possess a tail acting as a molecular nanomachine used during infection to recognize the host cell wall, attach to it, pierce it, and ensure the high-efficiency delivery of the genomic DNA to the host cytoplasm. In this review, we provide a comprehensive analysis of the various proteins constituting tailed bacteriophages from a structural viewpoint. To this end, we had in mind to pinpoint the resemblances within and between functional modules such as capsid/tail connectors, the tails themselves, or the tail distal host recognition devices, termed baseplates. This comparison has been extended to bacterial machineries embedded in the cell wall, for which shared molecular homology with phages has been recently revealed. This is the case for the type VI secretion system (T6SS), an inverted phage tail at the bacterial surface, or bacteriocins. Gathering all these data, we propose that a unique ancestral protein fold may have given rise to a large number of bacteriophage modules as well as to some related bacterial machinery components.
Bacteriophages are considered to be the most abundant biological entities on the planet. The Siphoviridae are the most commonly encountered tailed phages and contain double-stranded DNA with an average genome size of ∼50 kb. This paper describes the isolation from four different activated sludge plants of the phage RRH1, which is polyvalent, lysing five Rhodococcus species. It has a capsid diameter of only ∼43 nm. Whole-genome sequencing of RRH1 revealed a novel circularly permuted DNA sequence (14,270 bp) carrying 20 putative open reading frames. The genome has a modular arrangement, as reported for those of most Siphoviridae phages, but appears to encode only structural proteins and carry a single lysis gene. All genes are transcribed in the same direction. RRH1 has the smallest genome yet of any described functional Siphoviridae phage. We demonstrate that lytic phage can be recovered from transforming naked DNA into its host bacterium, thus making it a potentially useful model for studying gene function in phages.
Eight temperate phages were characterized after mitomycin C induction of six Clostridium difficile isolates corresponding to six distinct PCR ribotypes. The hypervirulent C. difficile strain responsible for a multi-institutional outbreak (NAP1/027 or QCD-32g58) was among these prophage-containing strains. Observation of the crude lysates by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) revealed the presence of three phages with isometric capsids and long contractile tails (Myoviridae family), as well as five phages with long noncontractile tails (Siphoviridae family). TEM analyses also revealed the presence of a significant number of phage tail-like particles in all the lysates. Southern hybridization experiments with restricted prophage DNA showed that C. difficile phages belonging to the family Myoviridae are highly similar and most likely related to previously described prophages φC2, φC5, and φCD119. On the other hand, members of the Siphoviridae phage family are more genetically divergent, suggesting that they originated from distantly related ancestors. Our data thus suggest that there are at least three genetically distinct groups of temperate phages in C. difficile; one group is composed of highly related myophages, and the other two groups are composed of more genetically heterogeneous siphophages. Finally, no gene homologous to genes encoding C. difficile toxins or toxin regulators could be identified in the genomes of these phages using DNA hybridization. Interestingly, each unique phage restriction profile correlated with a specific C. difficile PCR ribotype.
Bacillus cereus is responsible for an increasing number of food poisoning cases. By using 12 bacteriophages isolated from sewage, a typing scheme for B. cereus isolates from outbreaks or sporadic cases of food poisoning was developed. The phages belonged to three morphotypes. Ten phages with contractile tails and icosahedral heads were members of the Myoviridae family, and two phages with noncontractile tails belonged to the Siphoviridae family. Phage 11 represented a new species. It had an isometric head and a very long contractile tail with long wavy tail fibers and was one of the largest viruses known. The vast majority of 166 B. cereus strains (161, or 97%) isolated from food poisoning cases were typeable. Of 146 strains isolated from 18 outbreaks, 142 (97%) could be divided into 17 phage types. A good correlation, on the order of 80 to 100%, between phage types of strains isolated from suspected foods and those of strains isolated from stools of symptomatic patients was observed. Most Bacillus thuringiensis strains were also typeable, providing further evidence of the close relatedness of B. cereus and B. thuringiensis. This phage typing scheme can be a valuable epidemiological tool in tracing the origins of food poisoning caused by B. cereus.