Chapter 9 : Phage

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Phage, Page 1 of 2

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Phage represents the ultimate mash-up of selfish genes producing hopeful monsters—that is, groups of genes that promote their own propagation but which can often result in dramatic changes for the host that acquires them. The author and his group accumulated enough metagenomic data to determine the scale at which the global virome was contributing to the metabolic potential of their hosts. Compared to the microbes, the phage were enriched in genes with functions such as nucleic acid metabolism. More striking was the fact that the viromes also carry many genes associated with other unexpected aspects of metabolism (vitamin, cofactor, cell wall, and capsule synthesis), as well as genes for virulence factors, stress response genes, and chemotaxis genes. The phage-driven evolution of microbial hosts extends beyond the phage themselves. It was shown that many of the changes in microbial metagenomes were actually responses to predation by phage and protists. A most exciting recent development has been the discovery that host cells have rapidly evolving sequences, known as clustered, regularly interspaced, short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) that serve as a bacterial immune system to prevent phage infections in bacteria. The phage-microbial evolution is much more rapid and dynamic than Charles Darwin could have imagined. Phage transport genes all over the world and change the evolutionary trajectory of the microbes they infect by introducing genes that completely change the phenotypes of their hosts.

Citation: Rohwer F. 2012. Phage, p 65-69. In Kolter R, Maloy S (ed), Microbes and Evolution. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818470.ch9
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