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Sequence variability of Campylobacter temperate bacteriophages

Author(s): Clark Clifford | Ng Lai-King

Journal: BMC Microbiology
ISSN 1471-2180

Volume: 8;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 49;
Date: 2008;
Original page

Abstract Background Prophages integrated within the chromosomes of Campylobacter jejuni isolates have been demonstrated very recently. Prior work with Campylobacter temperate bacteriophages, as well as evidence from prophages in other enteric bacteria, suggests these prophages might have a role in the biology and virulence of the organism. However, very little is known about the genetic variability of Campylobacter prophages which, if present, could lead to differential phenotypes in isolates carrying the phages versus those that do not. As a first step in the characterization of C. jejuni prophages, we investigated the distribution of prophage DNA within a C. jejuni population assessed the DNA and protein sequence variability within a subset of the putative prophages found. Results Southern blotting of C. jejuni DNA using probes from genes within the three putative prophages of the C. jejuni sequenced strain RM 1221 demonstrated the presence of at least one prophage gene in a large proportion (27/35) of isolates tested. Of these, 15 were positive for 5 or more of the 7 Campylobacter Mu-like phage 1 (CMLP 1, also designated Campylobacter jejuni integrated element 1, or CJIE 1) genes tested. Twelve of these putative prophages were chosen for further analysis. DNA sequencing of a 9,000 to 11,000 nucleotide region of each prophage demonstrated a close homology with CMLP 1 in both gene order and nucleotide sequence. Structural and sequence variability, including short insertions, deletions, and allele replacements, were found within the prophage genomes, some of which would alter the protein products of the ORFs involved. No insertions of novel genes were detected within the sequenced regions. The 12 prophages and RM 1221 had a % G+C very similar to C. jejuni sequenced strains, as well as promoter regions characteristic of C. jejuni. None of the putative prophages were successfully induced and propagated, so it is not known if they were functional or if they represented remnant prophage DNA in the bacterial chromosomes. Conclusion These putative prophages form a family of phages with conserved sequences, and appear to be adapted to Campylobacter. There was evidence for recombination among groups of prophages, suggesting that the prophages had a mosaic structure. In many of these properties, the Mu-like CMLP 1 homologs characterized in this study resemble temperate bacteriophages of enteric bacteria that are responsible for contributions to virulence and host adaptation.
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