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Summary

The vast majority of cyanophages isolated to date are cyanomyoviruses, a group related to bacteriophage T4. Comparative genome analysis of five cyanomyoviruses, including a newly sequenced cyanophage S-RSM4, revealed a ‘core genome’ of 64 genes, the majority of which are also found in other T4-like phages. Subsequent comparative genomic hybridization analysis using a pilot microarray showed that a number of ‘host’ genes are widespread in cyanomyovirus isolates. Furthermore, a hyperplastic region was identified between genes g15–g18, within a highly conserved structural gene module, which contained a variable number of inserted genes that lacked conservation in gene order. Several of these inserted genes were host-like and included ptoX, gnd, zwf and petE encoding plastoquinol terminal oxidase, 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase, glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase and plastocyanin respectively. Phylogenetic analyses suggest that these genes were acquired independently of each other, even though they have become localized within the same genomic region. This hyperplastic region contains no detectable sequence features that might be mechanistically involved with the acquisition of host-like genes, but does appear to be a site specifically associated with the acquisition process and may represent a novel facet of the evolution of marine cyanomyoviruses.