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Adv Virus Res. 2012;82:179-288. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-394621-8.00015-7.

The secret lives of mycobacteriophages.

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1
Department of Biological Sciences, Pittsburgh Bacteriophage Institute, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennslyvania, USA.

Abstract

The study of mycobacteriophages provides insights into viral diversity and evolution, as well as the genetics and physiology of their pathogenic hosts. Genomic characterization of 80 mycobacteriophages reveals a high degree of genetic diversity and an especially rich reservoir of interesting genes. These include a vast number of genes of unknown function that do not match known database entries and many genes whose functions can be predicted but which are not typically found as components of phage genomes. Thus many mysteries surround these genomes, such as why the genes are there, what do they do, how are they expressed and regulated, how do they influence the physiology of the host bacterium, and what forces of evolution directed them to their genomic homes? Although the genetic diversity and novelty of these phages is full of intrigue, it is a godsend for the mycobacterial geneticist, presenting an abundantly rich toolbox that can be exploited to devise new and effective ways for understanding the genetics and physiology of human tuberculosis. As the number of sequenced genomes continues to grow, their mysteries continue to thicken, and the time has come to learn more about the secret lives of mycobacteriophages.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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