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Analysis of Spounaviruses as a Case Study for the Overdue Reclassification of Tailed Bacteriophages

By Jakub Barylski, Fran├žois Enault, Bas E. Dutilh, Margo BP Schuller, Robert A Edwards, Annika Gillis, Jochen Klumpp, Petar Knezevic, Mart Krupovic, Jens H. Kuhn, Rob Lavigne, Hanna M Oksanen, Matthew B Sullivan, Johannes Wittmann, Igor Tolstoy, J. Rodney Brister, Andrew M Kropinski, Evelien M. Adriaenssens

Posted 16 Nov 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/220434 (published DOI: 10.1093/sysbio/syz036)

It is almost a cliche that tailed bacteriophages of the order Caudovirales are the most abundant and diverse viruses in the world. Yet, their taxonomy still consists of a single order with just three families: Myoviridae, Siphoviridae, and Podoviridae. Thousands of newly discovered phage genomes have recently challenged this morphology-based classification, revealing that tailed bacteriophages are genomically even more diverse than once thought. Here, we evaluate a range of methods for bacteriophage taxonomy by using a particularly challenging group as an example, the Bacillus phage SPO1-related viruses of the myovirid subfamily Spounavirinae. Exhaustive phylogenetic and phylogenomic analyses indicate that the spounavirins are consistent with the taxonomic rank of family and should be divided into at least five subfamilies. This work is a case study for virus genomic taxonomy and the first step in an impending massive reorganization of the tailed bacteriophage taxonomy.

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