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Environ Microbiol. 2012 Feb;14(2):540-58. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2011.02667.x. Epub 2011 Dec 22.

Genome sequences of siphoviruses infecting marine Synechococcus unveil a diverse cyanophage group and extensive phage-host genetic exchanges.

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State Key Laboratory of Marine Environmental Science, Xiamen University, Xiamen, China.


Investigating the interactions between marine cyanobacteria and their viruses (phages) is important towards understanding the dynamic of ocean's primary productivity. Genome sequencing of marine cyanophages has greatly advanced our understanding about their ecology and evolution. Among 24 reported genomes of cyanophages that infect marine picocyanobacteria, 17 are from cyanomyoviruses and six from cyanopodoviruses, and only one from cyanosiphovirus (Prochlorococcus phage P-SS2). Here we present four complete genome sequences of siphoviruses (S-CBS1, S-CBS2, S-CBS3 and S-CBS4) that infect four different marine Synechococcus strains. Three distinct subtypes were recognized among the five known marine siphoviruses (including P-SS2) in terms of morphology, genome architecture, gene content and sequence similarity. Our study revealed that cyanosiphoviruses are genetically diverse with polyphyletic origin. No core genes were found across these five cyanosiphovirus genomes, and this is in contrast to the fact that many core genes have been found in cyanomyovirus or cyanopodovirus genomes. Interestingly, genes encoding three structural proteins and a lysozyme of S-CBS1 and S-CBS3 showed homology to a prophage-like genetic element in two freshwater Synechococcus elongatus genomes. Re-annotation of the prophage-like genomic region suggests that S. elongatus may contain an intact prophage. Cyanosiphovirus genes involved in DNA metabolism and replication share high sequence homology with those in cyanobacteria, and further phylogenetic analysis based on these genes suggests that ancient and selective genetic exchanges occurred, possibly due to past prophage integration. Metagenomic analysis based on the Global Ocean Sampling database showed that cyanosiphoviruses are present in relatively low abundance in the ocean surface water compared to cyanomyoviruses and cyanopodoviruses.

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