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A resource to study virus genes (in the Human intestinal tract, and everywhere else)

Tuesday, October 09, 2012 — Poster Session I

1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m

Natcher Conference Center, Building 45



* FARE Award Winner


  • DM Kristensen
  • AR Mushegian
  • EV Koonin


Viruses that infect bacteria (phages) in the human intestinal tract have been found to exist in a relatively stable population that is distinctive to an individual, even between identical twins. Phages are also extremely active players in the ecosystem of our entire planet: not only causing disease, but playing crucial roles in global processes. Advances in full-genome sequencing technologies have generated a large collection of over a thousand genomes, which allows deep insight into their genetic evolution, and metagenomics technologies promise even more rewarding glimpses into their lifecycles and community structures. Previously we developed an automated approach to assemble a novel collection of orthologous gene families in phages, which gives us a powerful tool to study these fascinating organisms, and recently we have doubled its size and expanded its scope. Using this resource, we found that more than half of all gene families in phages are not shared with their cellular hosts, making them ideal candidates for diagnostic tests as sensitive and precise markers of specific viral families. Studies of the evolutionary processes of phages also have implications for their use as therapeutic agents, as well as expanding their role as tools for biotechnology and other applications.

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