Campylobacter group II phage CP21 is the prototype of a new subgroup revealing a distinct modular genome organization and host specificity
Background: The application of phages is a promising tool to reduce the number of Campylobacter along the food chain. Besides the efficacy against a broad range of strains, phages have to be safe in terms of their genomes. Thus far, no genes with pathogenic potential (e.g., genes encoding virulence factors) have been detected in Campylobacter phages. However, preliminary studies suggested that the genomes of group II phages may be diverse and prone to genomic rearrangements. Results: We determined and analysed the genomic sequence (182,761 bp) of group II phage CP21 that is closely related to the already characterized group II phages CP220 and CPt10. The genomes of these phages are comprised of four modules separated by very similar repeat regions, some of which harbouring open reading frames (ORFs). Though, the arrangement of the modules and the location of some ORFs on the genomes are different in CP21 and in CP220/CPt10. In this work, a PCR system was established to study the modular genome organization of other group II phages demonstrating that they belong to different subgroups of the CP220-like virus genus, the prototypes of which are CP21 and CP220. The subgroups revealed different restriction patterns and, interestingly enough, also distinct host specificities, tail fiber proteins and tRNA genes. We additionally analysed the genome of group II phage vB_CcoM-IBB_35 (IBB_35) for which to date only five individual contigs could be determined. We show that the contigs represent modules linked by long repeat regions enclosing some yet not identified ORFs (e.g., for a head completion protein). The data suggest that IBB_35 is a member of the CP220 subgroup. Conclusion:Campylobacter group II phages are diverse regarding their genome organization. Since all hitherto characterized group II phages contain numerous genes for transposases and homing endonucleases as well as similar repeat regions, it cannot be excluded that these phages are genetically unstable. To answer this question, further experiments and sequencing of more group II phages should be performed.