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Virology. 1999 Aug 1;260(2):232-43.

The genetic relationship between virulent and temperate Streptococcus thermophilus bacteriophages: whole genome comparison of cos-site phages Sfi19 and Sfi21.

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Nestlé Research Centre, Nestec Ltd., Vers-chez-les-Blanc, Lausanne 26, CH-1000, Switzerland.


The virulent cos-site Streptococcus thermophilus bacteriophage Sfi19 has a 37,392-bp-long genome consisting of 44 open reading frames all encoded on the same DNA strand. The genome of the temperate cos-site S. thermophilus phage Sfi21 is 3.3 kb longer (40,740 bp, 53 orfs). Both genomes are very similarly organized and differed mainly by gene deletion and DNA rearrangement events in the lysogeny module; gene replacement, duplication, and deletion events in the DNA replication module, and numerous point mutations. The level of point mutations varied from <1% (lysis and DNA replication modules) to >15% (DNA packaging and head morphogenesis modules). A dotplot analysis showed nearly a straight line over the left 25 kb of their genomes. Over the right genome half, a more variable dotplot pattern was observed. The entire lysogeny module from Sfi21 comprising 12 genes was replaced by 7 orfs in Sfi19, six showed similarity with genes from temperate pac-site S. thermophilus phages. None of the genes implicated in the establishment of the lysogenic state (integrase, superinfection immunity, repressor) or remnants of it were conserved in Sfi19, while a Cro-like repressor was detected. Downstream of the highly conserved DNA replication module 11 and 13 orfs were found in Sfi19 and phiSfi21, respectively: Two orfs from Sfi21 were replaced by a different gene and a duplication of the phage origin of replication in Sfi19; a further orf was only found in Sfi21. All other orfs from this region, which included a second putative phage repressor, were closely related between both phages. Two noncoding regions of Sfi19 showed sequence similarity to pST1, a small cryptic plasmid of S. thermophilus.

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