Changes to the phenotypic profile of Vibrio harveyi when infected with the Vibrio harveyi myovirus-like (VHML) bacteriophage


L. Owens, Microbiology and Immunology, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia.


Aims:  To determine if infection of Vibrio harveyi with the V. harveyi myovirus-like (VHML) bacteriophage causes a change to the phenotypic profile of this species.

Methods and Results:  Using 46 biochemical and metabolic tests, phenotypic profiles for noninfected V. harveyi and VHML infected V. harveyi were developed. Comparison of the infected and bacteriophage-infected strains of V. harveyi 645, 20 and 45 were found to have different test results for d-gluconate utilization, γ-glutamyl transpeptidase and sulfatase activity, respectively. Using probabilistic identification, VHML infected and noninfected strains were identified as V. harveyi and had similar Willcox probability scores though the modal likelihood scores were reduced for VHML infected strains. One VHML infected strain, 642b, was misidentified as V. campbellii by phenotyping but not by PCR. It would appear that the phenotype of V. harveyi strains infected with VHML, are sufficiently altered that they occur at the margins of the known range of strain variation for V. harveyi.

Conclusion:  Infection of V. harveyi with VHML causes the phenotypic profile of the bacterium to change. This change reduces the modal likelihood score resulting in a poorer level of assurance for an identification of V. harveyi, especially in the natural host, strain 642. The bacteriophage VHML integrates into different sites in different strains of V. harveyi.

Significance and Impact of the Study:  The identification of V. harveyi as the causative agent of mortality in aquatic organisms is predominantly achieved through phenotyping. Since bacteriophages alter virulence in V. harveyi, understanding the effect they have on phenotype is important.