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Summary

We report on a genomic and functional analysis of a novel marine siphovirus, the Vibrio phage SIO-2. This phage is lytic for related Vibrio species of great ecological interest including the broadly antagonistic bacterium Vibrio sp. SWAT3 as well as notable members of the Harveyi clade (V. harveyi ATTC BAA-1116 and V. campbellii ATCC 25920). Vibrio phage SIO-2 has a circularly permuted genome of 80 598 bp, which displays unusual features. This genome is larger than that of most known siphoviruses and only 38 of the 116 predicted proteins had homologues in databases. Another divergence is manifest by the origin of core genes, most of which share robust similarities with unrelated viruses and bacteria spanning a wide range of phyla. These core genes are arranged in the same order as in most bacteriophages but they are unusually interspaced at two places with insertions of DNA comprising a high density of uncharacterized genes. The acquisition of these DNA inserts is associated with morphological variation of SIO-2 capsid, which assembles as a large (80 nm) shell with a novel T = 12 symmetry. These atypical structural features confer on SIO-2 a remarkable stability to a variety of physical, chemical and environmental factors. Given this high level of functional and genomic novelty, SIO-2 emerges as a model of considerable interest in ecological and evolutionary studies.