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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1998 Nov;64(11):4128-33.

Bacteriophage diversity in the North Sea.

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  • 1Biologische Anstalt Helgoland, D-27498 Helgoland, Germany.


In recent years interest in bacteriophages in aquatic environments has increased. Electron microscopy studies have revealed high numbers of phage particles (10(4) to 10(7) particles per ml) in the marine environment. However, the ecological role of these bacteriophages is still unknown, and the role of the phages in the control of bacterioplankton by lysis and the potential for gene transfer are disputed. Even the basic questions of the genetic relationships of the phages and the diversity of phage-host systems in aquatic environments have not been answered. We investigated the diversity of 22 phage-host systems after 85 phages were collected at one station near a German island, Helgoland, located in the North Sea. The relationships among the phages were determined by electron microscopy, DNA-DNA hybridization, and host range studies. On the basis of morphology, 11 phages were assigned to the virus family Myoviridae, 7 phages were assigned to the family Siphoviridae, and 4 phages were assigned to the family Podoviridae. DNA-DNA hybridization confirmed that there was no DNA homology between phages belonging to different families. We found that the 22 marine bacteriophages belonged to 13 different species. The host bacteria were differentiated by morphological and physiological tests and by 16S ribosomal DNA sequencing. All of the bacteria were gram negative, facultatively anaerobic, motile, and coccoid. The 16S rRNA sequences of the bacteria exhibited high levels of similarity (98 to 99%) with the sequences of organisms belonging to the genus Pseudoalteromonas, which belongs to the gamma subdivision of the class Proteobacteria.

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