Viruses Infecting a Freshwater Filamentous Cyanobacterium (Nostoc sp.) Encode a Functional CRISPR Array and a Proteobacterial DNA Polymerase B
Wirth, Jennifer F.
Suttle, Curtis A.
Date of Issue2016
Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering (SCELSE)
Here we present the first genomic characterization of viruses infecting Nostoc, a genus of ecologically important cyanobacteria that are widespread in freshwater. Cyanophages A-1 and N-1 were isolated in the 1970s and infect Nostoc sp. strain PCC 7210 but remained genomically uncharacterized. Their 68,304- and 64,960-bp genomes are strikingly different from those of other sequenced cyanophages. Many putative genes that code for proteins with known functions are similar to those found in filamentous cyanobacteria, showing a long evolutionary history in their host. Cyanophage N-1 encodes a CRISPR array that is transcribed during infection and is similar to the DR5 family of CRISPRs commonly found in cyanobacteria. The presence of a host-related CRISPR array in a cyanophage suggests that the phage can transfer the CRISPR among related cyanobacteria and thereby provide resistance to infection with competing phages. Both viruses also encode a distinct DNA polymerase B that is closely related to those found in plasmids of Cyanothece sp. strain PCC 7424, Nostoc sp. strain PCC 7120, and Anabaena variabilis ATCC 29413. These polymerases form a distinct evolutionary group that is more closely related to DNA polymerases of proteobacteria than to those of other viruses. This suggests that the polymerase was acquired from a proteobacterium by an ancestral virus and transferred to the cyanobacterial plasmid. Many other open reading frames are similar to a prophage-like element in the genome of Nostoc sp. strain PCC 7524. The Nostoc cyanophages reveal a history of gene transfers between filamentous cyanobacteria and their viruses that have helped to forge the evolutionary trajectory of this previously unrecognized group of phages.
© 2016 Chénard et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.