Conservation and diversity in the immunity regions of wild phages with the immunity specificity of phage λ

Patrick H. Degnan, Christine B. Michalowski, Andrea C. Babić, Matthew Hj Cordes, John W. Little

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


The gene regulatory circuitry of phage λ is among the best-understood circuits. Much of the circuitry centres around the immunity region, which includes genes for two repressors, CI and Cro, and their cis-acting sites. Related phages, termed lambdoid phages, have different immunity regions, but similar regulatory circuitry and genome organization to that of λ, and show a mosaic organization, arising by recombination between lambdoid phages. We sequenced the immunity regions of several wild phages with the immunity specificity of λ, both to determine whether natural variation exists in regulation, and to analyse conservation and variability in a region rich in well-studied regulatory elements. CI, Cro and their cis-acting sites are almost identical to those in λ, implying that regulatory mechanisms controlled by the immunity region are conserved. A segment adjacent to one of the operator regions is also conserved, and may be a novel regulatory element. In most isolates, different alleles of two regulatory proteins (N and CII) flank the immunity region; possibly the lysis-lysogeny decision is more variable among isolates. Extensive mosaicism was observed for several elements flanking the immunity region. Very short sequence elements or microhomologies were also identified. Our findings suggest mechanisms by which fine-scale mosaicism arises.

Cite this