DNA modifications vary in form and function but generally do not alter Watson-Crick base pairing. Diaminopurine (Z) is an exception because it completely replaces adenine and forms three hydrogen bonds with thymine in cyanophage S-2L genomic DNA. However, the biosynthesis, prevalence, and importance of Z genomes remain unexplored. Here, we report a multienzyme system that supports Z-genome synthesis. We identified dozens of globally widespread phages harboring such enzymes, and we further verified the Z genome in one of these phages, Acinetobacter phage SH-Ab 15497, by using liquid chromatography with ultraviolet and mass spectrometry. The Z genome endows phages with evolutionary advantages for evading the attack of host restriction enzymes, and the characterization of its biosynthetic pathway enables Z-DNA production on a large scale for a diverse range of applications.
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