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Genome Biol Evol. 2016 Sep 19;8(9):2827-40. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evw177.

Evolved Populations of Shigella flexneri Phage Sf6 Acquire Large Deletions, Altered Genomic Architecture, and Faster Life Cycles.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Michigan State University.
Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Michigan State University.
Department of Molecular Biosciences, University of Texas at Austin.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Michigan State University


Genomic architecture is the framework within which genes and regulatory elements evolve and where specific constructs may constrain or potentiate particular adaptations. One such construct is evident in phages that use a headful packaging strategy that results in progeny phage heads packaged with DNA until full rather than encapsidating a simple unit-length genome. Here, we investigate the evolution of the headful packaging phage Sf6 in response to barriers that impede efficient phage adsorption to the host cell. Ten replicate populations evolved faster Sf6 life cycles by parallel mutations found in a phage lysis gene and/or by large, 1.2- to 4.0-kb deletions that remove a mobile genetic IS911 element present in the ancestral phage genome. The fastest life cycles were found in phages that acquired both mutations. No mutations were found in genes encoding phage structural proteins, which were a priori expected from the experimental design that imposed a challenge for phage adsorption by using a Shigella flexneri host lacking receptors preferred by Sf6. We used DNA sequencing, molecular approaches, and physiological experiments on 82 clonal isolates taken from all 10 populations to reveal the genetic basis of the faster Sf6 life cycle. The majority of our isolates acquired deletions in the phage genome. Our results suggest that deletions are adaptive and can influence the duration of the phage life cycle while acting in conjunction with other lysis time-determining point mutations.


Shigella flexneri; bacteriophage; deletions; experimental evolution; holin

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