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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Bacteriophage: Biology and Genetics

Author
item Dowd, Scot

Submitted to: Encyclopedia of Environmental Microbiology
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: April 1, 2002
Publication Date: April 30, 2002
Citation: Dowd, S.E. 2002. Bacteriophage: Biology and genetics. In: Bitton, G., Editor. Encyclopedia of Environmental Microbiology. New York, NY:John Wiley and Sons. p. 363-364.

Interpretive Summary: Bacteriophage (phage), by definition, are viruses that infect bacteria. In general phage have a proteinaceous outer shell with an inner core containing their genetic material. They usually infect a host bacterium, by attaching to the bacterial cell via specific host receptor proteins and injecting their nucleic acids into the bacteria. The phages then utilize the chemical energy and biochemical machinery of the host to produce new phage particles. The phage is ultimately released from the bacterial cell by budding or extrusion from the plasma membrane or even complete lysis of the host cell. Phages are in most instances, host specific, with particular phage infecting only certain bacterial species. Since their discovery in 1915 by the British investigator Frederick W. Twort, and the introduction of the term bacteriophage by Felix Hubert d'Herelle (1), bacteriophage have become important tools, not only in studies of bacterial genetics and cellular mechanisms, but also in the field of Environmental Microbiology. Similar to other disciplines, phage are used primarily as models or surrogates to assess the fate of pathogenic human enteric viruses, as pathogen indicators, as vectors for transport of genetic information, and even as biocontrol agents. Unlike molecular biology, which makes use of the phage as tools for genetic engineering, Environmental Microbiologists more often use phage such as MS2, PRD1, and PhiX174 that structurally and biochemically resemble human pathogenic enteric viruses, such as poliovirus. These spherical bacteriophage are used as indicators or model viruses not only because they have similar size and shape to important human pathogenic viruses, but more importantly because they are much easier and less expensive to assay. This manuscript describes the basics biology and genetics of Bacteriophage.

Technical Abstract: Bacteriophage are viruses that infect bacteria. Bacteriophage are very small and made up of a protein coat with an inner core containing their genetic material. They infect bacterium, by attaching to the bacterial cell and injecting their nucleic acids into the bacteria. The phages then use the bacterial cell to produce new bacteriophage. The bacteriophage produced are then released and can infect additional bacteria. Bacteriophage were discovered in 1915 by the British investigator Frederick W. Twort, and the introduction of the term bacteriophage by Felix Hubert d'Herelle (1), bacteriophage have become important scientific tools such as models or surrogates to assess the fate of pathogenic human enteric viruses, as pathogen indicators, as vectors for transport of genetic information, and even as biocontrol agents. This manuscript describes the basics biology and genetics of Bacteriophage.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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