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Abstract

Bacteriophages are the most prevalent biological entities impacting on the ecosystem and are characterized by their extensive diversity. However, there are two aspects of phages that have remained largely unexplored: genetic flux by recombination between phage populations and characterization of specific phages in terms of the pan-genome. Here, we examined the recombination and pan-genome in prophages at both the genome and gene level. In the genome-level analysis, we applied, for the first time, chromosome painting and fineSTRUCTURE algorithms to a phage species, and showed novel trends in inter-population genetic flux. Notably, hpEastAsia is a phage population that imported a higher proportion of DNA fragments from other phages, whereas the hpSWEurope phages showed weaker signatures of inter-population recombination, suggesting genetic isolation. The gene-level analysis showed that, after parameter tuning of the prokaryote pan-genome analysis program, phages have a pan-genome consisting of 75 genes and a soft-core genome of 10 genes, which includes genes involved in the lytic and lysogenic life cycles. Quantitative analysis of recombination events of the soft-core genes showed no substantial variation in the intensity of recombination across the genes, but rather equally frequent recombination among housekeeping genes that were previously reported to be less prone to recombination. The signature of frequent recombination appears to reflect the host–phage evolutionary arms race, either by contributing to escape from bacterial immunity or by protecting the host by producing defective phages.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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2019-08-01
2022-05-17
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