Plasticity of the gene functions for DNA replication in the T4-like phages

J Mol Biol. 2006 Aug 4;361(1):46-68. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2006.05.071. Epub 2006 Jun 16.


We have completely sequenced and annotated the genomes of several relatives of the bacteriophage T4, including three coliphages (RB43, RB49 and RB69), three Aeromonas salmonicida phages (44RR2.8t, 25 and 31) and one Aeromonas hydrophila phage (Aeh1). In addition, we have partially sequenced and annotated the T4-like genomes of coliphage RB16 (a close relative of RB43), A. salmonicida phage 65, Acinetobacter johnsonii phage 133 and Vibrio natriegens phage nt-1. Each of these phage genomes exhibited a unique sequence that distinguished it from its relatives, although there were examples of genomes that are very similar to each other. As a group the phages compared here diverge from one another by several criteria, including (a) host range, (b) genome size in the range between approximately 160 kb and approximately 250 kb, (c) content and genetic organization of their T4-like genes for DNA metabolism, (d) mutational drift of the predicted T4-like gene products and their regulatory sites and (e) content of open-reading frames that have no counterparts in T4 or other known organisms (novel ORFs). We have observed a number of DNA rearrangements of the T4 genome type, some exhibiting proximity to putative homing endonuclease genes. Also, we cite and discuss examples of sequence divergence in the predicted sites for protein-protein and protein-nucleic acid interactions of homologues of the T4 DNA replication proteins, with emphasis on the diversity in sequence, molecular form and regulation of the phage-encoded DNA polymerase, gp43. Five of the sequenced phage genomes are predicted to encode split forms of this polymerase. Our studies suggest that the modular construction and plasticity of the T4 genome type and several of its replication proteins may offer resilience to mutation, including DNA rearrangements, and facilitate the adaptation of T4-like phages to different bacterial hosts in nature.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacteriophage T4 / genetics*
  • Bacteriophage T4 / physiology
  • DNA Replication / genetics*
  • DNA, Viral / biosynthesis
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • DNA, Viral / metabolism*
  • Genome, Viral
  • Molecular Sequence Data


  • DNA, Viral