Bacteriophage

The University of Iowa

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A Phage of One’s Own

The goal of this posting is to provide a narrative about basic protocols that may be useful to folks who want to go searching for bacterial viruses, aka bacteriophages and phages.  We assume the reader is comfortable with basic microbiology techniques including handling bacteriophages, and is equipped to make sterile media and supplies.  We hope the information is generally useful, including to those interested in designing teaching laboratory experiments based on novel phages.  Our research lab does genetic analysis of bacteriophages, with a specific interest in how DNA viruses package their DNA during assembly of progeny virus particles.  We work on bacteriophage lambda, a model DNA virus with a long history.  Lambda is an E. coli virus, so λ’s host is also a classic well-developed model organism.  Because our virus grows on an enteric bacterial host, this narrative will be biased towards enteric phages, especially those having E. coli as host.  And because we do genetics, there is a genetics bias too.  Topics here include (1) Isolating/Enriching Viruses from Nature, (2) Brief Review of Handling Viruses and their Bacterial Hosts (3) Virus Propagation, (4) Virus Characterization and (5) Virtual Viruses - brief discussion of database mining to find and study the bioinformatics of prophages that get sequenced when bacterial genomes are sequenced.   We will use the terms virus, bacteriophage, and phage interchangeably. In the present context, our use of the term virus is limited to bacterial viruses, as we won’t be discussing viruses that use archaeal or eukaryotic hosts.