Lactococcus lactis phage BK5-T and Streptococcus thermophilus phage Sfi21, two cos-site temperate Siphoviridae with 40-kb genomes, share an identical genome organization, sequence similarity at the amino acid level over about half of their genomes, and nucleotide sequence identity of 60% over the DNA packaging and head morphogenesis modules. Siphoviridae with similarly organized genomes and substantial protein sequence similarity were identified in several genera of low-GC-content Gram-positive bacteria. These phages demonstrated a gradient of relatedness ranging from nucleotide sequence similarity to protein sequence similarity to gene map similarity over the DNA packaging and head morphogenesis modules. Interestingly, the degree of relatedness was correlated with the evolutionary distance separating their bacterial hosts. These observations suggest elements of vertical evolution in phages. The structural genes from BK5-T shared no sequence relationships with corresponding genes/proteins from lactococcal phages belonging to distinct lactococcal phage species, including phage sk1 (phage species 936) that showed a closely related gene map. Despite a clearly distinct genome organization, lactococcal phages sk1 and c2 showed nine sequence-related proteins. Over the early gene cluster phage BK5-T shared nine regions of high nucleotide sequence similarity, covering at most two adjacent genes, with lactococcal phage r1t (phage species P335). Over the structural genes, the closest relatives of phage r1t were not lactococcal phages belonging to other phage species, but Siphoviridae from Mycobacteria (high-GC-content Gram-positive bacteria). Evidence for recent horizontal gene transfer between distinct phage species was obtained for dairy phages, but these transfers were limited to phages infecting the same bacterial host species.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.