Bacteriophages isolated on Mycobacterium smegmatis mc2155 represent many distinct genomes sharing little or no DNA sequence similarity. The genomes are architecturally mosaic and are replete with genes of unknown function. A new group of genomes sharing substantial nucleotide sequences constitute Cluster J. The six mycobacteriophages forming Cluster J are morphologically members of the Siphoviridae, but have unusually long genomes ranging from 106.3 to 117 kbp. Reconstruction of the capsid by cryo-electron microscopy of mycobacteriophage BAKA reveals an icosahedral structure with a triangulation number of 13. All six phages are temperate and homoimmune, and prophage establishment involves integration into a tRNA-Leu gene not previously identified as a mycobacterial attB site for phage integration. The Cluster J genomes provide two examples of intron splicing within the virion structural genes, one in a major capsid subunit gene, and one in a tail gene. These genomes also contain numerous freestanding HNH homing endonuclease, and comparative analysis reveals how these could contribute to genome mosaicism. The unusual Cluster J genomes provide new insights into phage genome architecture, gene function, capsid structure, gene mobility, intron splicing, and evolution.
Pope WH, Jacobs-Sera D, Best AA, Broussard GW, Connerly PL, et al. (2013) Cluster J Mycobacteriophages: Intron Splicing in Capsid and Tail Genes. PLoS ONE 8(7): e69273. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069273