Despite the abundance, ubiquity and impact of environmental viruses, their inherent genomic plasticity and extreme diversity pose significant challenges for the examination of bacteriophages on Earth. Viral metagenomic studies have offered insight into broader aspects of phage ecology and repeatedly uncover genes to which we are currently unable to assign function. A combined effort of phage isolation and metagenomic survey of Chicago’s nearshore waters of Lake Michigan revealed the presence of Pbunaviruses, relatives of the Pseudomonas
phage PB1. This prompted our expansive investigation of PB1-like phages. Genomic signatures of PB1-like phages and Pbunaviruses were identified, permitting the unambiguous distinction between the presence/absence of these phages in soils, freshwater and wastewater samples, as well as publicly available viral metagenomic datasets. This bioinformatic analysis led to the de novo assembly of nine novel PB1-like phage genomes from a metagenomic survey of samples collected from Lake Michigan. While this study finds that Pbunaviruses are abundant in various environments of Northern Illinois, genomic variation also exists to a considerable extent within individual communities.
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