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Open Access Research article

Analysis of the lambdoid prophage element e14 in the E. coli K-12 genome

Preeti Mehta1, Sherwood Casjens2 and Sankaran Krishnaswamy1*

Author Affiliations

1 Bioinformatics Centre, School of Biotechnology, Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai-625021, India

2 University of Utah Medical School, Department of Pathology, 90 North 1900 East, Salt Lake City UT 84132-2501, USA

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BMC Microbiology 2004, 4:4  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-4-4

Published: 20 January 2004



Many sequenced bacterial genomes harbor phage-like elements or cryptic prophages. These elements have been implicated in pathogenesis, serotype conversion and phage immunity. The e14 element is a defective lambdoid prophage element present at 25 min in the E. coli K-12 genome. This prophage encodes important functional genes such as lit (T4 exclusion), mcrA (modified cytosine restriction activity) and pin (recombinase).


Bioinformatic analysis of the e14 prophage sequence shows the modular nature of the e14 element which shares a large part of its sequence with the Shigella flexneri phage SfV. Based on this similarity, the regulatory region including the repressor and Cro proteins and their binding sites were identified. The protein product of b1149 was found to be a fusion of a replication protein and a terminase. The genes b1143, b1151 and b1152 were identified as putative pseudogenes. A number of duplications of the stfE tail fibre gene of the e14 are seen in plasmid p15B. A protein based comparative approach using the COG database as a starting point helped detect lambdoid prophage like elements in a representative set of completely sequenced genomes.


The e14 element was characterized for the function of its encoded genes, the regulatory regions, replication origin and homology with other phage and bacterial sequences. Comparative analysis at nucleotide and protein levels suggest that a number of important phage related functions are missing in the e14 genome including parts of the early left operon, early right operon and late operon. The loss of these genes is the result of at least three major deletions that have occurred on e14 since its integration. A comparative protein level approach using the COG database can be effectively used to detect defective lambdoid prophage like elements in bacterial genomes.

e14; lambdoid phage; modular genome; decaying prophage