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Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2005 Jun;16(3):299-307.

Marine phage genomics: what have we learned?

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  • 1College of Marine Science, University of South Florida, St Petersburg, Florida 33701, USA.


Marine phages are the most abundant and diverse form of life on the planet, and their genomes have been described as the largest untapped reservoir of genomic information. To date, however, the complete genome sequences of only 17 marine phage are known. Nevertheless, these genomes have revealed some interesting features, including the presence of photosynthetic genes in cyanophage and common patterns of genomic organization. Intriguing findings are also being made from studies of the uncultivated marine viral community genome ('metavirome'). The greatest challenge in interpreting the biology of these phages, and for making comparisons with their terrestrial counterparts, is the high proportion of unidentifiable open reading frames (approximately 60%). Future studies are likely to focus on sequencing more marine phage genomes from disparate hosts and diverse environments and on further basic studies of the biology of existing marine phages.

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