Bacteriophage HP2 of Haemophilus influenzae
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Temperate bacteriophages effect chromosomal evolution of their bacterial hosts, mediating rearrangements and the acquisition of novel genes from other taxa. Although the Haemophilus influenzae genome shows evidence of past phage-mediated lateral transfer, the phages presumed responsible have not been identified. To date, six different H. influenzae phages are known; of these, only the HP1/S2 group, which lyosogenizes exclusively Rd strains (which were originally encapsulated serotype d), is well characterized. Phages in this group are genetically very similar, with a highly conserved set of genes. Because the majority of H. influenzae strains are nonencapsulated (nontypeable), it is important to characterize phages infecting this larger, genetically more diverse group of respiratory pathogens. We have identified and sequenced HP2, a bacteriophage of nontypeable H. influenzae. Although related to the fully sequenced HP1 (and even more so to the partially sequenced S2) and similar in genetic organization, HP2 has a few novel genes and differs in host range; HP2 will not infect or lysogenize Rd strains. Genomic comparisons between HP1/S2 and HP2 suggest recent divergence, with new genes completely replacing old ones at certain loci. Sequence comparisons suggest that H. influenzae phages evolve by recombinational exchange of genes with each other, with cryptic prophages, and with the host chromosome.
Journal of Bacteriology, December 2002, p. 6893-6905, Vol. 184, No. 24.