Publication Date

Spring 2019

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Rodney A. King (Director), Dr. Claire A. Rinehart and Dr. Simran Banga

Degree Program

Department of Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science


Bacteriophage MooMoo is a temperate phage that was isolated and propagated on Mycobacterium smegmatis (M. smeg). It typically produces turbid plaques, however spontaneous clear plaque mutants can be readily isolated. Both turbid (MooMoo-T) and clear plaque (MooMoo-C) formers can establish stable lysogens, but the parental turbid plaque forming phage has a higher lysogenic frequency. The phage repressor protein typically plays the central role in regulating the lysis/lysogeny decision. Therefore, we expected that the mutation responsible for the clear plaque phenotype would be located in the repressor gene. Remarkably, whole genome sequencing detected a single base pair mutation in the minor tail protein gene (gp19). The regulatory role of the repressor protein could not be excluded considering it was unclear how the mutation in gp19 was leading to the altered plaque phenotype. To locate the phage repressor, we used bioinformatics to identify several candidate genes with helix-turn-helix and DNA binding motifs (gp42, gp43 and gp44). We also cloned the parental and mutant gp19 genes. Each candidate gene was cloned into a shuttle vector. The clones of gp43, gp44 and both derivatives of gp19 did not prevent MooMoo growth, whereas the clones of gp42 inhibited phage growth. Based on these results, we concluded that gp42 is the phage repressor for MooMoo.

To determine if the presence of gp19 alters lysogenic frequency, lysogeny assays of wild-type (WT) and mutant gp19 clones were evaluated. Compared to the MooMoo-C lysate, the cloned copy of the mutant gp19 showed a slight increase in lysogeny efficiency. The lysogeny frequencies on strains that carry cloned copies of gp19 (WT or mutant) were similar to those obtained on strains that lacked the plasmids. From these results, we concluded, the presence of either parental or mutant gp19 clones does not affect the lysogeny frequency. To determine if host cell physiology was affected by lysogeny, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur utilization resources were screened using high-throughput phenotypic microarrays. From these results, we concluded the presence of the WT or mutant prophage had no significant effect on the utilization of the resources tested.


Environmental Microbiology and Microbial Ecology | Microbial Physiology | Other Microbiology | Virology