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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2010 Aug;8(8):541-51. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2393.

The phage-related chromosomal islands of Gram-positive bacteria.

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New York University School of Medicine, Kimmel Center for Biology and Medicine, Skirball institute of Biomolecular Medicine, Molecular Pathogenesis Program, 540 First Avenue, New York, New York 10016, USA.


The phage-related chromosomal islands (PRCIs) were first identified in Staphylococcus aureus as highly mobile, superantigen-encoding genetic elements known as the S. aureus pathogenicity islands (SaPIs). These elements are characterized by a specific set of phage-related functions that enable them to use the phage reproduction cycle for their own transduction and inhibit phage reproduction in the process. SaPIs produce many phage-like infectious particles; their streptococcal counterparts have a role in gene regulation but may not be infectious. These elements therefore represent phage satellites or parasites, not defective phages. In this Review, we discuss the shared genetic content of PRCIs, their life cycle and their ability to be transferred across large phylogenetic distances.

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