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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2007 Sep;73(17):5516-22. Epub 2007 Jul 13.

Selection and characterization of cyanophage resistance in marine Synechococcus strains.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Roger Williams University, Bristol, RI 02809, USA.


Marine viruses are an important component of the microbial food web, influencing microbial diversity and contributing to bacterial mortality rates. Resistance to cooccurring cyanophages has been reported for natural communities of Synechococcus spp.; however, little is known about the nature of this resistance. This study examined the patterns of infectivity among cyanophage isolates and unicellular marine cyanobacteria (Synechococcus spp.). We selected for phage-resistant Synechococcus mutants, examined the mechanisms of phage resistance, and determined the extent of cross-resistance to other phages. Four strains of Synechococcus spp. (WH7803, WH8018, WH8012, and WH8101) and 32 previously isolated cyanomyophages were used to select for phage resistance. Phage-resistant Synechococcus mutants were recovered from 50 of the 101 susceptible phage-host pairs, and 23 of these strains were further characterized. Adsorption kinetic assays indicate that resistance is likely due to changes in host receptor sites that limit viral attachment. Our results also suggest that receptor mutations conferring this resistance are diverse. Nevertheless, selection for resistance to one phage frequently resulted in cross-resistance to other phages. On average, phage-resistant Synechococcus strains became resistant to eight other cyanophages; however, there was no significant correlation between the genetic similarity of the phages (based on g20 sequences) and cross-resistance. Likewise, host Synechococcus DNA-dependent RNA polymerase (rpoC1) genotypes could not be used to predict sensitivities to phages. The potential for the rapid evolution of multiple phage resistance may influence the population dynamics and diversity of both Synechococcus and cyanophages in marine waters.

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