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Bacteriophage K1-5 Encodes Two Different Tail Fiber Proteins, Allowing It To Infect And Replicate On Both K1 And K5 Strains Of Escherichia Coli

Dean Scholl, Scott Rogers, Sankar Adhya, Carl R. Merril

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ABSTRACT A virulent double-stranded DNA bacteriophage, ΦK1-5, has been isolated and found to be capable of infecting Escherichia coli strains that possess either the K1 or the K5 polysaccharide capsule. Electron micrographs show that the virion consists of a small icosohedral head with short tail spikes, similar to members of the Podoviridae family. DNA sequence analysis of the region encoding the tail fiber protein showed two open reading frames encoding previously characterized hydrolytic phage tail fiber proteins. The first is the K5 lyase protein gene of ΦK5, which allows this phage to specifically infect K5 E. coli strains. A second open reading frame encodes a protein almost identical in amino acid sequence to the N -acetylneuraminidase (endosialidase) protein of ΦK1E, which allows this phage to specifically infect K1 strains of E. coli . We provide experimental evidence that mature phage particles contain both tail fiber proteins, and mutational analysis indicates that each protein can be independently inactivated. A comparison of the tail gene regions of ΦK5, ΦK1E, and ΦK1-5 shows that the genes are arranged in a modular or cassette configuration and suggests that this family of phages can broaden host range by horizontal gene transfer.