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Curr Opin Microbiol. 2005 Aug;8(4):451-8.

Comparative genomics and evolution of the tailed-bacteriophages.

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  • 1Division of Cell Biology and Immunology, Department of Pathology, University of Utah Medical School, Salt Lake City, UT 84132, USA.


The number of completely sequenced tailed-bacteriophage genomes that have been published increased to more than 125 last year. The comparison of these genomes has brought their highly mosaic nature into much sharper focus. Furthermore, reports of the complete sequences of about 150 bacterial genomes have shown that the many prophage and parts thereof that reside in these bacterial genomes must comprise a significant fraction of Earth's phage gene pool. These phage and prophage genomes are fertile ground for attempts to deduce the nature of viral evolutionary processes, and such analyses have made it clear that these phage have enjoyed a significant level of horizontal exchange of genetic information throughout their long histories. The strength of these evolutionary deductions rests largely on the extensive knowledge that has accumulated during intensive study into the molecular nature of the life cycles of a few 'model system' phages over the past half century. Recent molecular studies of phages other than these model system phages have made it clear that much remains to be learnt about the variety of lifestyle strategies utilized by the tailed-phage.

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