Evidence for the intense exchange of MazG in marine cyanophages by horizontal gene transfer

PLoS One. 2008 Apr 23;3(4):e2048. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002048.


Background: S-PM2 is a phage capable of infecting strains of unicellular cyanobacteria belonging to the genus Synechococcus. S-PM2, like other myoviruses infecting marine cyanobacteria, encodes a number of bacterial-like genes. Amongst these genes is one encoding a MazG homologue that is hypothesized to be involved in the adaption of the infected host for production of progeny phage.

Methodology/principal findings: This study focuses on establishing the occurrence of mazG homologues in other cyanophages isolated from different oceanic locations. Degenerate PCR primers were designed using the mazG gene of S-PM2. The mazG gene was found to be widely distributed and highly conserved among Synechococcus myoviruses and podoviruses from diverse oceanic provinces.

Conclusions/significance: This study provides evidence of a globally connected cyanophage gene pool, the cyanophage mazG gene having a small effective population size indicative of rapid lateral gene transfer despite being present in a substantial fraction of cyanophage. The Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus phage mazG genes do not cluster with the host mazG gene, suggesting that their primary hosts are not the source of the mazG gene.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriophages / genetics*
  • Bacteriophages / isolation & purification
  • Base Sequence
  • Cyanobacteria / genetics
  • Cyanobacteria / virology*
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal*
  • Genes, Viral
  • Geography
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Seawater*
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Viral Proteins / genetics*


  • Viral Proteins