Complete genome sequence of Pseudoalteromonas phage vB_PspS-H40/1 (formerly H40/1) that infects Pseudoalteromonas sp. strain H40 and is used as biological tracer in hydrological transport studies
© The Author(s). 2017
Received: 18 June 2016
Accepted: 22 January 2017
Published: 2 February 2017
Pseudoalteromonas phage vB_PspS-H40/1 is a lytic phage that infects Pseudoalteromonas sp. strain H40. Both, the phage and its host were isolated in the 1970s from seawater samples collected from the North Sea near the island of Helgoland, Germany. The phage particle has an icosahedral capsid with a diameter of ~43 to 45 nm and a long non-contractile tail of ~68 nm in length, a typical morphology for members of the Siphoviridae family. The linear dsDNA genome of Pseudoalteromonas phage vB_PspS-H40/1 has a sequence length of 45,306 bp and a GC content of 40.6%. The genome has a modular structure and contains a high proportion of sequence information for hypothetical proteins, typically seen in phage genome sequences. This is the first report of the complete genome sequence of this lytic phage, which has been frequently used since the 1990s as biological tracer in hydrogeological transport studies.
KeywordsPseudoalteromonas phage Siphoviridae AquaDiva Marine phage Virus Genome Bacteriophages as tracers
Pseudoalteromonas , affiliated with the order Alteromonadales [1, 2] of the Gammaproteobacteria [2, 3], is a genus of heterotrophic, Gram-negative marine bacteria . Members of this genus are widely distributed in marine ecosystems and have attracted interest due to their frequent association with eukaryotic hosts and their production of biologically active compounds [5–7]. Both inhibitory as well as synergistic chemical interactions between strains of Pseudoalteromonas and various marine eukaryotes have been described , indicating that members of this genus are potentially involved in complex ecological networks across trophic levels. Viruses, as the most abundant biological entity in the oceans, are a major cause of host mortality and thus key players within these ecological networks; they influence host community structures and thereby also influence global biogeochemical cycles and genetic landscapes .
As of April 2016, 14 complete Pseudoalteromonas phage genomes have been deposited at GenBank (10 of them unpublished). Ten representatives belong to the Caudovirales order (three siphoviruses, four podoviruses, two myoviruses and one unclassified caudovirus), one is a corticovirus and three are unclassified viruses. Pseudoalteromonas phages have been shown to represent a significant group of phages in the ocean [10, 11], making it likely that the number of yet unknown phage genomes is much higher. Characterization of additional Pseudoalteromonas phage genomes is a further step towards a better understanding of the diversity, the biology and the ecological impact of this group of phages and contributes to an improved interpretation of viral metagenome data and dynamics of viral populations in the environment [12–14]. Moreover, comparison of potentially closely related viral genomes is a prerequisite to understand virus evolution and intraspecies genomic variation [15, 16].
In this report we describe the genome of the Pseudoalteromonas phage vB_PspS-H40/1, isolated in 1978 from the North Sea near the island of Helgoland (Germany) . Notably, this phage has been used as a non-reactive biological agent to trace the flow of water in surface and subsurface environments and promises utility in (geo-)hydrological transport studies [18–21]. According to the scheme for the nomenclature of viruses the phage was re-named from H40/1 to vB_PspS-H40/1 .
Classification and features
The bacterial host H40 was isolated from seawater samples collected between 1969 and 1978 near the island of Helgoland in the North Sea . Sequence analysis of the 16S-rRNA gene revealed H40 as a member of the Pseudoalteromonas genus. The partial 16S-rRNA sequence was deposited at GenBank (acc. no. KX236488). Strain H40 was used as the bacterial host for screening of lytic marine bacteriophages from the same sampling site resulting in the isolation of phage vB_PspS-H40/1 .
The phage surface is moderately charged (zeta potential of −11 ± 3 mV (100 mM K2HPO4/KH2PO4, pH = 7)) and of moderate hydrophobicity (water contact angle = 53 ± 3°) as determined by standard physico-chemical characterization methods of bacterial surfaces (e.g. ).
Classification and general features of Pseudoalteromonas phage vB_PspS-H40/1 infecting Pseudoalteromonas sp. strain H40
Genome group: dsDNA viruses, no RNA stage
Isometric capsid, long non-contractile tail
pH range; optimum
Marine water column
Intracellular parasite of Pseudoalteromonas sp. strain H40
Virulent phage of Pseudoalteromonas sp. strain H40
North Sea, Helgoland, Germany
Genome sequencing information
Genome project history
Pseudoalteromonas phage vB_PspS-H40/1 is one of the few known marine siphovirus isolates  and belongs to a group of important phages found in the ocean [10, 11]. Genome sequencing of this phage will increase available information and facilitate future studies on diversity, evolution and ecological impact of marine viruses. A second reason to select this phage for sequencing is its frequent application in biological tracing experiments [18–21]. Phage vB_PspS-H40/1 is one of the marine phages that are currently used in the frame of the Collaborative Research Centre AquaDiva to trace the hydrological flow and reactive transport of colloidal particles from the surface into the Earth’s subsurface . Environmental influences might inactivate a still to define percentage of transported phages. Knowledge of a phage genome will facilitate the detection of this phage using PCR and thus allow to (quantitatively) distinguish between biologically active (e.g. detected by plaque assay) from inactive phages and might hence help in the interpretation of findings from these transport experiments.
One paired-end Illumina library
Geneious Assembler version R6
Gene calling method
RAST, GLIMMER, GeneMark.hmm
GenBank Date of Release
Jun 07, 2016
Source Material Identifier
Diversity of marine bacteriophage, Hydrological transport studies
Growth conditions and genomic DNA preparation
The bacterial host Pseudoalteromonas sp., strain H40 was grown and maintained in 2216E medium  (containing nutrients at 50% of the original concentration) at 20 °C. The phage was propagated on its host in petri dishes with 2216E agar (with nutrients as above) using the double agar-layer technique. Five ml of SM buffer (100 mM NaCl, 8 mM MgSO4 × 7H2O, 50 mM Tris–HCl, pH 7.5) and a few drops of chloroform were added to the plates after confluent lysis of bacterial host cells. Plates were gently shaken for 2 h at room temperature, supernatant was collected and cell debris was removed by centrifugation at 10,000 × g for 15 min. One volume of chloroform was then added to the supernatant, gently mixed and centrifuged at 5,000 × g for 5 min. The phage particle-containing upper phase was passed through a 0.22 μm polyvinylidene fluoride CHROMAFIL® membrane filter to remove unlysed host cells and debris. The resulting phage suspension was stored at 4 °C. DNA from phage particles was extracted following the protocol of Thurber et al. .
Genome sequencing and assembly
The extracted phage DNA was sheared into ~300 to 500 bp fragments using the Covaris M220 Focused-ultrasonicator™ instrument and one paired-end library was prepared with the NEBNext® Ultra™ DNA Library Prep Kit for Illumina®. Sequencing was performed at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ on an Illumina MiSeq system (2 × 150 bp). In total, 418,468 paired-reads were obtained for Pseudoalteromonas phage vB_PspS-H40/1. Raw reads were split into 10 subsets (approximately 42,000 reads for each subset) to facilitate improved assembly . Independent assemblies were performed for each subset by Geneious Assembler (version R6) resulting in nearly the same single contig for each of the subsets but with different starting points indicating a circularly permuted genome of phage vB_PspS-H40/1. For confirmation, PCR primers were designed matching the ends of the contigs with an outward orientation and used in PCR. The resulting amplicon was Sanger sequenced and used to close the contigs for Pseudoalteromonas phage vB_PspS-H40/1. The coverage was estimated by reference mapping of the raw reads to the contig resulting in an approximate 1200-fold coverage (~ 92% of all reads) of the 45,306 bp genome.
Genes and ORFs in the phage genome were predicted using a combination of three gene calling methods: the RAST annotation server , GLIMMER3  and GeneMark.hmm . Only ORFs that were predicted by two of the three gene calling methods were included in the annotation. Functional annotation of translated ORFs was improved by BLASTp alignments against the NCBI non-redundant database . In addition, RPS-BLAST searches against the Conserved Domain Database  and HMMER search  against the UniProtKB database were performed. Protein domains were predicted using the COG , Pfam , TIGRFAMs  and KEGG  databases. Phoebius  was used to predict signal peptides and transmembrane helices.
% of Total
Genome size (bp)
DNA coding (bp)
DNA G + C (bp)
Protein coding genes
Genes in internal clusters
Genes with function prediction
Genes assigned to COGs
Genes with Pfam domains
Genes with signal peptides
Genes with transmembrane helices
Number of genes associated with general COG functional categories
Translation, ribosomal structure and biogenesis
RNA processing and modification
Replication, recombination and repair
Chromatin structure and dynamics
Cell cycle control, Cell division, chromosome partitioning
Signal transduction mechanisms
Cell wall/membrane biogenesis
Intracellular trafficking and secretion
Posttranslational modification, protein turnover, chaperones
Energy production and conversion
Carbohydrate transport and metabolism
Amino acid transport and metabolism
Nucleotide transport and metabolism
Coenzyme transport and metabolism
Lipid transport and metabolism
Inorganic ion transport and metabolism
Secondary metabolites biosynthesis, transport and catabolism
General function prediction only
Not in COGs
Insights from the genome sequence
When all 73 predicted CDSs were subjected to functional annotation only 17 CDSs could be assigned to a specific function. These functions were related to DNA packaging, head and tail assembly, DNA replication and metabolism (Fig. 2 and Additional file 1: Table S1). Twenty-nine of the predicted CDSs, including mainly hypothetical proteins but also TerL and structural proteins, showed highest similarity to the unclassified Caudovirales member Pseudoalteromonas phage H103 after blastp analysis (Fig. 2). Highest similarity of other CDSs was found to marine Pseudoalteromonas phages belonging to the Siphoviridae family, i.e. Pseudoalteromonas phage TW1 (GenBank acc. no. KC542353), Pseudoalteromonas phage Pq0 (GenBank acc. no. NC_029100) and Pseudoalteromonas phage H105/1 (GenBank acc. no. NC_015293). However, proteins involved in DNA replication (helicase, RecA-NTPase and methylase) were related to those found in Vibrio phage H188 (GenBank acc.no. KT160311) and Escherichia phage vB_EcoM-ep3 (GenBank acc. no. NC_025430), two members of the Myoviridae family, suggesting mosaicism of the genome.
Phylogenetic inferences deduced from the TerL amino acid sequence showed no close phylogenetic relationship to any of the established Siphoviridae genera (Fig. 3).
The characterized complete genome of lytic Pseudoalteromonas phage vB_PspS-H40/1 that was isolated from seawater in the North Sea improves our knowledge of this significant group of phages. The linear dsDNA genome has a size of 45,306 bp and a GC content of 40.6%. The obtained sequencing data indicate phage vB_PspS-H40/1 uses headful packaging strategy and that the genome is circularly permuted. Among the 73 protein coding sequences only 17 were functionally annotated. Transmission electron microscopy and phylogenetic analysis of TerL sequences suggest this phage might belong to a genus of a yet unclassified group of Siphoviridae. Next to studies on specific phage-host interactions in marine systems, phage vB_PspS-H40/1 will be used in surface and groundwater tracer experiments and its genome sequence and morphological description will help interpreting results from these studies.
Terminase large subunit
We are grateful for excellent technical assistance of Stephan Schreiber and Nicole Steinbach.
The work has been funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) CRC 1076 “AquaDiva”. The analytical facilities of ProVIS - Centre for Chemical Microscopy at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research were supported by Europäischer Fonds für regionale Entwicklung (EFRE), Freistaat Sachsen and the Helmholtz Association.
RK, NG and AN performed laboratory experiments. RK analysed the data. BK, MS and JK performed electron microscopy. RK, JZ, LW, JH, HH and AC together designed the study and wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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