'Big things in small packages: The genetics of filamentous phage and effects on fitness of their host'

Publication Type:
Journal Article
FEMS Microbiology Reviews, 2015, 39 (4), pp. 465 - 487
Issue Date:
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© FEMS 2015. This review synthesizes recent and past observations on filamentous phages and describes how these phages contribute to host phentoypes. For example, the CTXφ phage of Vibrio cholerae encodes the cholera toxin genes, responsible for causing the epidemic disease, cholera. The CTXφ phage can transduce non-toxigenic strains, converting them into toxigenic strains, contributing to the emergence of new pathogenic strains. Other effects of filamentous phage include horizontal gene transfer, biofilm development, motility, metal resistance and the formation of host morphotypic variants, important for the biofilm stress resistance. These phages infect a wide range of Gram-negative bacteria, including deep-sea, pressure-adapted bacteria. Many filamentous phages integrate into the host genome as prophage. In some cases, filamentous phages encode their own integrase genes to facilitate this process, while others rely on host-encoded genes. These differences are mediated by different sets of 'core' and 'accessory' genes, with the latter group accounting for some of the mechanisms that alter the host behaviours in unique ways. It is increasingly clear that despite their relatively small genomes, these phages exert signficant influence on their hosts and ultimately alter the fitness and other behaviours of their hosts.
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