Deoxyinosine and 7-Deaza-2-Deoxyguanosine as Carriers of Genetic Information in the DNA of Campylobacter Viruses

J Virol. 2019 Nov 13;93(23):e01111-19. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01111-19. Print 2019 Dec 1.


Several reports have demonstrated that Campylobacter bacteriophage DNA is refractory to manipulation, suggesting that these phages encode modified DNA. The characterized Campylobacter jejuni phages fall into two phylogenetic groups within the Myoviridae: the genera Firehammervirus and Fletchervirus Analysis of genomic nucleosides from several of these phages by high-pressure liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry confirmed that 100% of the 2'-deoxyguanosine (dG) residues are replaced by modified bases. Fletcherviruses replace dG with 2'-deoxyinosine, while the firehammerviruses replace dG with 2'-deoxy-7-amido-7-deazaguanosine (dADG), noncanonical nucleotides previously described, but a 100% base substitution has never been observed to have been made in a virus. We analyzed the genome sequences of all available phages representing both groups to elucidate the biosynthetic pathway of these noncanonical bases. Putative ADG biosynthetic genes are encoded by the Firehammervirus phages and functionally complement mutants in the Escherichia coli queuosine pathway, of which ADG is an intermediate. To investigate the mechanism of DNA modification, we isolated nucleotide pools and identified dITP after phage infection, suggesting that this modification is made before nucleotides are incorporated into the phage genome. However, we were unable to observe any form of dADG phosphate, implying a novel mechanism of ADG incorporation into an existing DNA strand. Our results imply that Fletchervirus and Firehammervirus phages have evolved distinct mechanisms to express dG-free DNA.IMPORTANCE Bacteriophages are in a constant evolutionary struggle to overcome their microbial hosts' defenses and must adapt in unconventional ways to remain viable as infectious agents. One mode of adaptation is modifying the viral genome to contain noncanonical nucleotides. Genome modification in phages is becoming more commonly reported as analytical techniques improve, but guanosine modifications have been underreported. To date, two genomic guanosine modifications have been observed in phage genomes, and both are low in genomic abundance. The significance of our research is in the identification of two novel DNA modification systems in Campylobacter-infecting phages, which replace all guanosine bases in the genome in a genus-specific manner.

Keywords: Campylobacter jejuni; DNA modification; bacteriophages; deazaguanosine; deoxyinosine.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriophages / genetics*
  • Biosynthetic Pathways / genetics
  • Campylobacter jejuni / virology*
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • Deoxyguanosine / analogs & derivatives
  • Deoxyguanosine / genetics*
  • Deoxyguanosine / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / virology
  • Genome, Viral
  • Inosine / analogs & derivatives
  • Inosine / genetics*
  • Inosine / metabolism
  • Myoviridae / genetics
  • Phylogeny


  • DNA, Viral
  • Inosine
  • 7-deaza-2'-deoxyguanosine
  • Deoxyguanosine
  • deoxyinosine