Research Publication Title

Analysis of Environmental Factors on Mycobacteriophage Isolation

Major

Biology

Faculty Mentor

Indiren Pillay

Keywords

Biology, Microbiology, Bacteriophage, Soil, Environmental Factors

Abstract

Mycobacteriophages are a diverse set of bacterial viruses that infect hosts such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium smegmatis. These viruses are abundant throughout the biosphere and have been evolving for billions of years, giving rise to genetically diverse populations. The isolation and characterization of mycobacteriophages from the environment allows for a deeper understanding of their genetic diversity and consequently the overall evolution of their hosts, Mycobacterium. Few studies have been conducted that examine the impact of temperature and other environmental characteristics on the isolation of bacteriophages.Using the non-pathogenic host Mycobacterium smegmatis, this study investigates the role of environmental conditions in the effective isolation of mycobacteriophage from soil. Monthly soil samples were collected from environmental sites in central Georgia in order to isolate mycobacteriophage species with a host range specific to M. smegmatis. Soil texture analysis determined that one site has a sandy loam soil and the other has a sandy, clay loam soil. Environmental factors such as air temperature, soil temperature, soil texture, pH, and aeration were tested to determine their impacts on mycobacteriophage isolation. Analysis of the abundance of endogenous M. smegmatis in the soil was undertaken to determine if the bacteriophage and host show a general pattern of predator/prey relationships. Phage plaque morphologies are also observed each month to determine if a lytic or lysogenic cycle was more favorable during certain environmental conditions. Preliminary results reveal a direct correlation in plaque abundance to air temperature. Mycobacteriophage proliferation is shown to be higher in warmer months than in cooler months. With this study, a more in-depth understanding of how environmental factors impact mycobacteriophage isolation is obtained, thereby increasing our overall knowledge of this diverse group of bacteriophages.

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Analysis of Environmental Factors on Mycobacteriophage Isolation

Mycobacteriophages are a diverse set of bacterial viruses that infect hosts such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium smegmatis. These viruses are abundant throughout the biosphere and have been evolving for billions of years, giving rise to genetically diverse populations. The isolation and characterization of mycobacteriophages from the environment allows for a deeper understanding of their genetic diversity and consequently the overall evolution of their hosts, Mycobacterium. Few studies have been conducted that examine the impact of temperature and other environmental characteristics on the isolation of bacteriophages.Using the non-pathogenic host Mycobacterium smegmatis, this study investigates the role of environmental conditions in the effective isolation of mycobacteriophage from soil. Monthly soil samples were collected from environmental sites in central Georgia in order to isolate mycobacteriophage species with a host range specific to M. smegmatis. Soil texture analysis determined that one site has a sandy loam soil and the other has a sandy, clay loam soil. Environmental factors such as air temperature, soil temperature, soil texture, pH, and aeration were tested to determine their impacts on mycobacteriophage isolation. Analysis of the abundance of endogenous M. smegmatis in the soil was undertaken to determine if the bacteriophage and host show a general pattern of predator/prey relationships. Phage plaque morphologies are also observed each month to determine if a lytic or lysogenic cycle was more favorable during certain environmental conditions. Preliminary results reveal a direct correlation in plaque abundance to air temperature. Mycobacteriophage proliferation is shown to be higher in warmer months than in cooler months. With this study, a more in-depth understanding of how environmental factors impact mycobacteriophage isolation is obtained, thereby increasing our overall knowledge of this diverse group of bacteriophages.