Bacteriophages are the most abundant organisms in the biosphere and play major roles in the ecological balance of microbial life. The genomic sequences of ten newly isolated mycobacteriophages suggest that the bacteriophage population as a whole is amazingly diverse and may represent the largest unexplored reservoir of sequence information in the biosphere. Genomic comparison of these mycobacteriophages contributes to our understanding of the mechanisms of viral evolution and provides compelling evidence for the role of illegitimate recombination in horizontal genetic exchange. The promiscuity of these recombination events results in the inclusion of many unexpected genes including those implicated in mycobacterial latency, the cellular and immune responses to mycobacterial infections, and autoimmune diseases such as human lupus. While the role of phages as vehicles of toxin genes is well established, these observations suggest a much broader involvement of phages in bacterial virulence and the host response to bacterial infections.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)