HK022 is a temperate coliphage related to phage λ. Its chromosome has been completely sequenced, and several aspects of its life cycle have been intensively studied. In the overall arrangement, expression, and function of most of its genes, HK022 broadly resembles λ and other members of the λ family. Upon closer view, significant differences emerge. The differences reveal alternative strategies used by related phages to cope with similar problems and illuminate previously unknown regulatory and structural motifs. HK022 prophages protect lysogens from superinfection by producing a sequence-specific RNA binding protein that prematurely terminates nascent transcripts of infecting phage. It uses a novel RNA-based mechanism to antiterminate its own early transcription. The HK022 protein shell is strengthened by a complex pattern of covalent subunit interlinking to form a unitary structure that resembles chainmail armor. Its integrase and repressor proteins are similar to those of λ, but the differences provide insights into the evolution of biological specificity and the elements needed for construction of a stable genetic switch.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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