Staying below the Radar: Unraveling a New Family of Ubiquitous “Cryptic” Non-Tailed Temperate Vibriophages and Implications for Their Bacterial Hosts

Panos G. Kalatzis, Jesper Juel Mauritzen, Caroline Sophie Winther-Have, Slawomir Michniewski, Andrew Millard, Maria Ioanna Tsertou, Pantelis Katharios, Mathias Middelboe*


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Bacteriophages are the most abundant biological entities in the oceans and play key roles in bacterial activity, diversity and evolution. While extensive research has been conducted on the role of tailed viruses (Class: Caudoviricetes), very little is known about the distribution and functions of the non-tailed viruses (Class: Tectiliviricetes). The recent discovery of the lytic Autolykiviridae family demonstrated the potential importance of this structural lineage, emphasizing the need for further exploration of the role of this group of marine viruses. Here, we report the novel family of temperate phages under the class of Tectiliviricetes, which we propose to name “Asemoviridae” with phage NO16 as a main representative. These phages are widely distributed across geographical regions and isolation sources and found inside the genomes of at least 30 species of Vibrio, in addition to the original V. anguillarum isolation host. Genomic analysis identified dif-like sites, suggesting that NO16 prophages recombine with the bacterial genome based on the XerCD site-specific recombination mechanism. The interactions between the NO16 phage and its V. anguillarum host were linked to cell density and phage–host ratio. High cell density and low phage predation levels were shown to favor the temperate over the lytic lifestyle for NO16 viruses, and their spontaneous induction rate was highly variable between different V. anguillarum lysogenic strains. NO16 prophages coexist with the V. anguillarum host in a mutualistic interaction by rendering fitness properties to the host, such as increased virulence and biofilm formation through lysogenic conversion, likely contributing to their global distribution.

TidsskriftInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Udgave nummer4
Antal sider23
StatusUdgivet - feb. 2023

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
The study was supported by grants from the Danish Council for Independent Research (Project # DFF-7014–00080), Danish National Research Foundation through the Danish Center for Hadal Research, HADAL (No. DNRF14), and from the University of Copenhagen, Department of Biology as a PhD stipend granted to JJM. Experimental work on fish larvae took place at the facilities of Hellenic Center for Marine Research in the frames of AquaExcel 2020 project ( with PID: AE130019.


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