Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Rodney A. King (Director), Sigrid Jacobshagen, Claire Rinehart

Degree Program

Department of Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science


Lambdoid phages suppress transcription termination to fully express their genes. Antitermination of early gene expression in most lambdoid phages is mediated by an interaction between the N protein and a number of host-encoded factors. Bacteriophage HK022 does not rely on a protein for antitermination. To promote full expression of early phage genes, the transcripts of the HK022 put sites interact directly with RNA polymerase to convert it to a termination resistant form. Bacteriophage HK639 also uses RNA-mediated antitermination. However, it only possesses a single put-like element in its left operon. Because most lambdoid phages, including HK022, have antiterminator elements in each of their early operons, the presence of a single antitermination site in HK639 was unexpected. We have shown that host genes involved in promoting protein-mediated antitermination are not required for HK639 growth. We have also shown that expression of the left operon is essential for lytic growth. Replacement of the left operon promoter, PL, and the putL antitermination sequence prevented HK639 phage release. A similar construct that only replaced putL also prevented phage release. These results suggest that antitermination is required for HK639 excision and/or lytic growth. To distinguish between a defect in phage excision versus a defect in lytic growth, the mutations were crossed onto lytically growing phage. Recombinant phages could not be recovered which suggests a defect in lytic growth is preventing phage release. Additional replacements of left operon sequences suggest that antitermination is not the only requirement for lytic growth. A 2,161bp deletion (HK639 genome coordinates 30,888-33,048) and a 1,736bp deletion (HK639 genome coordinates 29,152- 30,887) downstream of the HK639 putL site also prevented phage release, whereas a 1,746bp deletion (HK639 genome coordinates 29,151-27,406) did not. These results suggest that the deleted HK639 left operon sequences are required for lytic growth. BLAST analysis did not provide insight into the function of the deleted genes. Although the function of many of the HK639 left operon genes is unknown, their importance in phage growth can now be verified by complementation analysis. Our results suggest that HK639 may use a novel mechanism to control the expression of its early genes.


Bacteriology | Biology | Environmental Health | Environmental Microbiology and Microbial Ecology | Genetics and Genomics | Microbiology | Virology