Experimental validation that human microbiome phages use alternative genetic coding.

29 Sep 2022
Peters SL, Borges AL, Giannone RJ, Morowitz MJ, Banfield JF, Hettich RL

Previous bioinformatic analyses of metagenomic data have indicated that bacteriophages can use genetic codes different from those of their host bacteria. In particular, reassignment of stop codon TAG to glutamine (a variation known as 'genetic code 15') has been predicted. Here, we use LC-MS/MS-based metaproteomics of human fecal samples to provide experimental evidence of the use of genetic code 15 in two crAss-like phages. Furthermore, the proteomic data from several phage structural proteins supports the reassignment of the TAG stop codon to glutamine late in the phage infection cycle. Thus, our work experimentally validates the expression of genetic code 15 in human microbiome phages.