Replication and Maintenance of Linear Phage-Plasmid N15

Microbiol Spectr. 2015 Feb;3(1):PLAS-0032-2014. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.PLAS-0032-2014.


The lambdoid phage N15 of Escherichia coli is very unusual among temperate phages in that its prophage is not integrated into the chromosome but is a linear plasmid molecule with covalently closed ends (telomeres). Upon infection, the phage DNA circularizes via cohesive ends, and then a special phage enzyme of the tyrosine recombinase family, protelomerase, cuts at another site and joins the ends, forming hairpin telomeres of the linear plasmid prophage. Replication of the N15 prophage is initiated at an internally located ori site and proceeds bidirectionally, resulting in the formation of duplicated telomeres. The N15 protelomerase cuts them, generating two linear plasmid molecules with hairpin telomeres. Stable inheritance of the plasmid prophage is ensured by a partitioning operon similar to the F factor sop operon. Unlike the F centromere, the N15 centromere consists of four inverted repeats dispersed in the genome. The multiplicity and dispersion of centromeres are required for efficient partitioning of a linear plasmid. The centromeres are located in the N15 genome regions involved in phage replication and control of lytic development, and binding of partition proteins at these sites regulates these processes. The family of N15-like linear phage-plasmids includes lambdoid phages ɸKO2 and pY54, as well as Myoviridae phages ΦHAP-1, VHML, VP882, Vp58.5, and vB_VpaM_MAR of marine gamma-proteobacteria. The genomes of these phages contain similar protelomerase genes, lysogeny control modules, and replication genes, suggesting that these phages may belong to a group diverged from a common ancestor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Centromere
  • Coliphages / genetics*
  • Coliphages / physiology*
  • DNA Replication
  • DNA, Circular / genetics
  • DNA, Circular / metabolism
  • Gammaproteobacteria / genetics*
  • Gammaproteobacteria / virology*
  • Genes, Viral
  • Plasmids*
  • Prophages / genetics*
  • Prophages / physiology*
  • Replication Origin
  • Synteny


  • DNA, Circular