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J Bacteriol. 1992 Mar;174(5):1462-77.

DNA sequences of the tail fiber genes of bacteriophage P2: evidence for horizontal transfer of tail fiber genes among unrelated bacteriophages.

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  • 1Department of Microbial Genetics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


We have determined the DNA sequence of the bacteriophage P2 tail genes G and H, which code for polypeptides of 175 and 669 residues, respectively. Gene H probably codes for the distal part of the P2 tail fiber, since the deduced sequence of its product contains regions similar to tail fiber proteins from phages Mu, P1, lambda, K3, and T2. The similarities of the carboxy-terminal portions of the P2, Mu, ann P1 tail fiber proteins may explain the observation that these phages in general have the same host range. The P2 H gene product is similar to the products of both lambda open reading frame (ORF) 401 (stf, side tail fiber) and its downstream ORF, ORF 314. If 1 bp is inserted near the end of ORF 401, this reading frame becomes fused with ORF 314, creating an ORF that may represent the complete stf gene that encodes a 774-amino-acid-long side tail fiber protein. Thus, a frameshift mutation seems to be present in the common laboratory strain of lambda. Gene G of P2 probably codes for a protein required for assembly of the tail fibers of the virion. The entire G gene product is very similar to the products of genes U and U' of phage Mu; a region of these proteins is also found in the tail fiber assembly proteins of phages TuIa, TuIb, T4, and lambda. The similarities in the tail fiber genes of phages of different families provide evidence that illegitimate recombination occurs at previously unappreciated levels and that phages are taking advantage of the gene pool available to them to alter their host ranges under selective pressures.

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