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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jun 11, 1996; 93(12): 5854–5859.
PMCID: PMC39151

Similarities and dissimilarities of phage genomes.

Abstract

Genomic similarities and contrasts are investigated in a collection of 23 bacteriophages, including phages with temperate, lytic, and parasitic life histories, with varied sequence organizations and with different hosts and with different morphologies. Comparisons use relative abundances of di-, tri-, and tetranucleotides from entire genomes. We highlight several specific findings. (i) As previously shown for cellular genomes, each viral genome has a distinctive signature of short oligonucleotide abundances that pervade the entire genome and distinguish it from other genomes. (ii) The enteric temperate double-stranded (ds) phages, like enterobacteria, exhibit significantly high relative abundances of GpC = GC and significantly low values of TA, but no such extremes exist in ds lytic phages. (iii) The tetranucleotide CTAG is of statistically low relative abundance in most phages. (iv) The DAM methylase site GATC is of statistically low relative abundance in most phages, but not in P1. This difference may relate to controls on replication (e.g., actions of the host SeqA gene product) and to MutH cleavage potential of the Escherichia coli DAM mismatch repair system. (v) The enteric temperate dsDNA phages form a coherent group: they are relatively close to each other and to their bacteria] hosts in average differences of dinucleotide relative abundance values. By contrast, the lytic dsDNA phages do not form a coherent group. This difference may come about because the temperate phages acquire more sequence characteristics of the host because they use the host replication and repair machinery, whereas the analyzed lytic phages are replicated by their own machinery. (vi) The nonenteric temperate phages with mycoplasmal and mycobacterial hosts are relatively close to their respective hosts and relatively distant from any of the enteric hosts and from the other phages. (vii) The single-stranded RNA phages have dinucleotide relative abundance values closest to those for random sequences, presumably attributable to the mutation rates of RNA phages being much greater than those of DNA phages.

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