Morphology, host range and phylogenetic diversity of Sphingomonas phages in the floodwater of a Japanese paddy field


: N. NAKAYAMA, Laboratory of Soil Biology and Chemistry, Graduate School of Bioagricultural Sciences, Nagoya University, Furocho, Chikusa, Nagoya 464-8601, Japan. Email:


Members of the Sphingomonas-related genera (Sphingomonas, Sphingobium, Novosphingobium and Sphingopyxis) are dominant in bacterial isolates from the floodwater of Japanese paddy fields. Fifty-eight Sphingomonas/Novosphingobium bacteriophages (phages) were isolated to elucidate their morphology, host range and phylogenetic diversity based on the capsid gene (g23) sequence. All of the phages were siphoviruses with isometric or elongated, icosahedral capsids and a long, non-contractile tail. The genomes were double-stranded DNA measuring either 40, 60, 100 or 160 kb. The host range of the phages was examined by infecting 16 bacterial isolates from the floodwater, belonging to Sphingomonas, Novosphingobium, Sphingopyxis and Porphyrobacter. The host range was widely different and varied between infection of only the host used for isolation and infection of hosts belonging to the three genera of Sphingomonas, Novosphingobium and Porphyrobacter. All phages had g23, indicating the ubiquity of the g23 gene among Myoviridae and Siphoviridae members. Every g23 sequence of the phages belonged to one of the six uncharacterized Paddy Groups proposed by Fujii et al. (2008). The g23 sequences were identical at the nucleotide level for several phages with isometric and elongated capsids with 60 and 160 kb genomes, and between some phages and the clones that were retrieved from distant paddy fields. This indicates the common occurrence of horizontal transfer of g23 in the paddy fields. The g23 sequence does not correlate with the host range of those phages. In addition, a larger degree of divergence of g23 from coliphage T4 in paddy fields compared to marine environments was estimated from the present study.