Honors Students' Abstracts
The Characterization of Novel Bacteriophage “Marlex”
Mariele Courtois, Alex Santiago
Bacteriophage, a class of viruses that infect bacteria, are the most abundant biological entities on Earth; their wealth of genomic diversity can provide valuable evolutionary insights as well as insights into potential therapeutic uses. However, making full use of bacteriophage diversity has been limited by the relatively few phage that have been isolated and characterized. To remedy this, we have joined a nationwide consortium of schools conducting year-long research sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science Education Alliance (SEA) Program. During the fall of 2011, we isolated and characterized a mycobacteriophage (Marlex) on the host Mycobacterium smegmatis extracted from soil samples collected from the campus of Loyola Marymount University. To characterize the phage Marlex, we performed restriction digests on its genomic DNA. Researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles photographed Marlex using electron microscopy. Through PCR and molecular analysis, we characterized Marlex into cluster C1, a family of myoviridae phages with contractile tails. In the spring, as part of a class project, we are currently carrying out bioinformatics research to annotate the genome of the phage, Contagion, and compare this phage genome to that of existing, annotated phage genomes…Bioinformatic analysis utilizes a variety of bioinformatics programs including DNA Master, BLAST, Consed, and Apollo. We will describe the isolation and characterization of the C1 cluster phage, Marlex, and our preliminary findings on the bioinformatics analysis of Contagion. We will also discuss the implications of our results and their contribution to microbial ecology and evolution.