Faculty Advisor

Richard Alvey

Graduation Year

2021

Location

Center for Natural Sciences, Illinois Wesleyan University

Start Date

21-4-2018 9:00 AM

End Date

21-4-2018 10:00 AM

Description

Bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria, are among the most abundant biological entities on Earth, with an estimated 10³¹ bacteriophages in existence today. Although numerous, bacteriophages have traditionally been difficult to isolate, study, and categorize. As members of the SEA-PHAGES program, we attempted to find unique phages, extract their DNA, and characterize their genomes. Bacteriophages can be isolated from soil environments, so we began by collecting soil samples from multiple diverse locations in an attempt to find a greater variety of phages. Once a phage was found, we then worked on understanding how unique this particular phage was by comparing it to other phages, both those discovered our class as well as those with sequenced genomes. The comparison between phages was done via methods that included immunity testing, polymerase chain reaction testing, and transmission electron microscopy. To definitively group the phages into a cluster, we then sent them to the University of Pittsburgh for genomic testing. Once clustered, we used DNA annotation technology, including the programs DNAMaster and PECAAN. The name of the Mycobacterium smegmatis phage we chose to study was named Constella, and was isolated by Julie Xu in Bloomington, IL. Based on hypotheses from the experimental methods and the DNA sequencing, Constella was clustered as a J phage. J phages are quite rare, accounting for about 2% of all phages discovered thus far, or 34 members out of the roughly 1575 sequenced Mycobacterium phages. Based on the experiments conducted, Constella was found to be similar to Squint, a J phage isolated by last year’s class, as well as to potential J phages that were isolated this year. By analyzing the genome of Constella, we are able to add useful information to the bacteriophage database, thus assisting other researchers studying bacteriophages similar to Constella.

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Apr 21st, 9:00 AM Apr 21st, 10:00 AM

Conquering Constella: A Journey of Phage Discovery

Center for Natural Sciences, Illinois Wesleyan University

Bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria, are among the most abundant biological entities on Earth, with an estimated 10³¹ bacteriophages in existence today. Although numerous, bacteriophages have traditionally been difficult to isolate, study, and categorize. As members of the SEA-PHAGES program, we attempted to find unique phages, extract their DNA, and characterize their genomes. Bacteriophages can be isolated from soil environments, so we began by collecting soil samples from multiple diverse locations in an attempt to find a greater variety of phages. Once a phage was found, we then worked on understanding how unique this particular phage was by comparing it to other phages, both those discovered our class as well as those with sequenced genomes. The comparison between phages was done via methods that included immunity testing, polymerase chain reaction testing, and transmission electron microscopy. To definitively group the phages into a cluster, we then sent them to the University of Pittsburgh for genomic testing. Once clustered, we used DNA annotation technology, including the programs DNAMaster and PECAAN. The name of the Mycobacterium smegmatis phage we chose to study was named Constella, and was isolated by Julie Xu in Bloomington, IL. Based on hypotheses from the experimental methods and the DNA sequencing, Constella was clustered as a J phage. J phages are quite rare, accounting for about 2% of all phages discovered thus far, or 34 members out of the roughly 1575 sequenced Mycobacterium phages. Based on the experiments conducted, Constella was found to be similar to Squint, a J phage isolated by last year’s class, as well as to potential J phages that were isolated this year. By analyzing the genome of Constella, we are able to add useful information to the bacteriophage database, thus assisting other researchers studying bacteriophages similar to Constella.