The complete genome sequences of over 220 mycobacteriophages reveal them to be highly diverse, with numerous types sharing little or no nucleotide sequence identity with each other. We have determined the preferences of these phages for Mycobacterium tuberculosis and for other strains of Mycobacterium smegmatis, and find there is a correlation between genome type (cluster, subcluster, singleton) and host range. For many of the phages, expansion of host range occurs at relatively high frequencies, and we describe several examples in which host constraints occur at early stages of infection (adsorption or DNA injection), and phages have the ability to expand their host range through mutations in tail genes. We present a model in which phage diversity is a function of both the ability of phages to rapidly adapt to new hosts and the richness of the diversity of the bacterial population from which those phages are isolated.
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