Why hello there phellow phage phriends! Thanks for deciding to read my blog, the third instalment of my adventures in the phage lab thus far!
Comparing a phage to a child??
A lot has happened since my last blog and this post will catch you up to date now that our final lab session has ended (sniff). First there was the phage trip to Auckland University to have a look at our phage under their electron microscope! I don’t know about you, but for me this whole process felt like I was carrying a real child – the months spent in the lab isolating this little phage (very little!) and then being able to see it up close in the electron microscope photo was just like an ultrasound.
Above is the picture of my phage (be patient, I will talk about the name soon!) which we confidently agreed was part of the Siphoviridae family. Not to spoil any other potential blog post ideas from my colleagues, but we also believe that there may have quite possibly been a Podoviridae family member amongst our classes phage. These are extremely rare and only one has been known to exist to infect Mycobacterium smegmatis. If this is the case – how exciting!
So what are the main points between these two families?
- Long, non-contractile tail
- Double stranded linear DNA
- 50kb with around 70 genes
- Most common with approximately 90% Mycobacterium phage in this family
- Short, non-contractile tail around 17nm
- Double stranded linear DNA
- 40-42kb in length with around 55 genes
Of course there are other phage families in existence, unfortunately none of these were discovered within our phage hunt.
The big naming unveil!
First things first, I know I did promise a big phage name reveal, and I have been talking it up quite a bit recently but I am proud to welcome phage Inca to the world! Inca is a special name to me as it represents my beautiful herd of cows. Inca can also be roughly translated to “ruler” or “lord”, helping give my little wee phage the confidence to rule over all Mycobacterium smegmatis and fulfil its genetic potential to the best that it can be! If you want to have a closer look at Inca, in regards to plaque morphologies, gels and location, click here to visit the page.
“May the odds be ever in your phavour“
As we neared the end of our final lab session, all phage enthusiasts began to train their phage in its speciality, bringing out the big guns for the upcoming Phage Olympics! What’s that you ask? Well, let me share with you! The Phage Olympics is the opportunity that all phage have to prove themselves in the hopes of gaining a podium finish, qualifying them to travel to the United States of America to be genetically sequenced. Unfortunately the odds could only be in two phages favour (wow say that 10 times!) as the extensive financial cost of sequencing restricted the remaining two phage from having this honour bestowed upon them.
There seemed to be some very interesting tactics for this Olympics challenge. There were phage hoping their “phamous phriends” could convince the judges to select them, as well as phage that represented and related to the majority of regular phage. More tactics included phage that were just all round talents – be it in their DNA, structure and concentration – and phage whom chose to pull out the rarity card, hoping to become that second ever discovered podoviridae for M. smegmatis. After some light hearted banter and pleading it was time to cast the votes. As many a TV host would say; “In no particular order” the two phage going through to the sequencing finale were StepMih and Inca! Hooray! I was delighted to hear that the judging panel and audience had believed in Inca’s dominance, genetic potential and style as much as I – they may have possibly been convinced with some phage inspired cupcakes too? 😉 Back in the lab the samples were archived and all ready to fly out to the United States!!!
Reflecting on this paper thus far, it has has really opened up my mind about the potential for phage to be a major game changer in biological, medical, agricultural fields and beyond. From phage therapy through to understanding the genetic potential and specificity of these incredibly diverse and abundant organisms can provide an alternative solution to harsh antibiotics for suffers such as ‘Sam’s story’. I’m really hoping that Inca phage will one day open doors to microbial discovery and with the knowledge gained, could go on to solve major agricultural issues affecting the New Zealand Dairy industry.
And in that closing remark, I bid you all farewell (for now!). I am looking forward to seeing the results of our genetic sequencing when we get back next semester – is my phage really as special as I make it out to be? Soon we’ll find out!