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Microb Drug Resist. 1997 Summer;3(2):165-76.

Bacteriophages of Streptococcus pneumoniae: a molecular approach.

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Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas, Madrid, Spain.


We have characterized four families of pneumococcal phages with remarkable morphologic and physiological differences. Dp-1 and Cp-1 are lytic phages, whereas HB-3 and EJ-1 are temperate phages. Interestingly, Cp-1 and HB-3 have a terminal protein covalently linked to the 5' ends of their lineal DNAs. In the case of Dp-1, we have found that the choline residues of the teichoic acid were essential components of the phage receptors. We have also developed a transfection system using mature DNAs from Dp-4 and Cp-1. In the later case, the transfecting activity of the DNA was destroyed by treatment with proteolytic enzymes, a feature also shared by the genomes of several small Bacillus phages. DNA replication was investigated in the case of Dp-4 and Cp-1 phages. The terminal protein linked to Cp-1 DNA plays a key role in the peculiar mechanism of DNA replication that has been coined as protein-priming. Recently, the linear 19,345-bp double-stranded DNA of Cp-1 has been completely sequenced, several of its gene products have been analyzed, and a complete transcriptional map has been ellaborated. Most of the pneumococcal lysins exhibit an absolute dependence of the presence of choline in the cell wall substrate for activity, and phage lysis requires, as reported for other systems, the action of a second phage-encoded protein, the holin, which presumably forms some kind of lesion in the membrane. The two lytic gene cassettes, from EJ-1 and Cp-1 phages, have been cloned and expressed in heterologous and homologous systems. The finding that some lysogenic strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae harbor phage remnants has provided important clues on the interchanges between phage and bacteria and supports the view of the chimeric origin of phages.

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