Nineteen Vibrio anguillarum-specific temperate bacteriophages isolated across Europe and Chile from aquaculture and environmental sites were genome sequenced and analyzed for host range, morphology and life cycle characteristics. The phages were classified as Siphoviridae with genome sizes between 46,006 and 54,201 bp. All 19 phages showed high genetic similarity, and 13 phages were genetically identical. Apart from sporadically distributed single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), genetic diversifications were located in three variable regions (VR1, VR2 and VR3) in six of the phage genomes. Identification of specific genes, such as N6-adenine methyltransferase and lambda like repressor, as well as the presence of a tRNAArg, suggested a both mutualistic and parasitic interaction between phages and hosts. During short term phage exposure experiments, 28% of a V. anguillarum host population was lysogenized by the temperate phages and a genomic analysis of a collection of 31 virulent V. anguillarum showed that the isolated phages were present as prophages in >50% of the strains covering large geographical distances. Further, phage sequences were widely distributed among CRISPR-Cas arrays of publicly available sequenced Vibrios. The observed distribution of these specific temperate Vibriophages across large geographical scales may be explained by efficient dispersal of phages and bacteria in the marine environment combined with a mutualistic interaction between temperate phages and their hosts which selects for co-existence rather than arms race dynamics.
Keywords: Siphovirus; Vibrio anguillarum; bacteriophages; genetic similarity; lysogenic conversion; omnipresent; temperate.