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Res Microbiol. 2004 Nov;155(9):720-5.

Cyanophage infection and photoinhibition in marine cyanobacteria.

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Department of Biological Science, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK.


Members of two cyanobacterial genera, Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus, are dominant within the prokaryotic component of the picophytoplankton and contribute significantly to global photosynthetic productivity. These organisms are known to be susceptible to infection by bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria) and it is believed that phage infection in the oceans has exerted selective pressures on the evolution of both phage and host and continues to influence community structure. Understanding of the processes of host-phage interaction within the marine environment is limited; however, new insights have arisen from sequence analysis of the genome of the bacteriophage S-PM2, which infects Synechococcus strains. The phage was found to encode homologs of the key photosystem II reaction center core polypeptides, D1 and D2. These reaction center polypeptides are known to be rapidly turned over in uninfected cells in a repair cycle that helps to protect oxygenic phototrophs against photoinhibition. This finding suggests that bacteriophages infecting marine cyanobacteria may play an active role in protecting their hosts against photoinhibition, thereby ensuring an energy supply for replication by preventing the deleterious effects on host cell integrity seen during acute photoinhibition.

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