A distinct lineage of giant viruses brings a rhodopsin photosystem to unicellular marine predators

Needham DM, Yoshizawa S, Hosaka T, Poirier C, Choi CJ, Hehenberger E, Irwin NAT, Wilken S,Yung CM, Bachy C et al. – PNAS

Although viruses are well-characterized regulators of eukaryotic algae, little is known about those infecting unicellular predators in oceans. We report the largest marine virus genome yet discovered, found in a wild predatory choanoflagellate sorted away from other Pacific microbes and pursued using integration of cultivation-independent and laboratory methods. The giant virus encodes nearly 900 proteins, many unlike known proteins, others related to cellular metabolism and organic matter degradation, and 3 type-1 rhodopsins. The viral rhodopsin that is most abundant in ocean metagenomes, and also present in an algal virus, pumps protons when illuminated, akin to cellular rhodopsins that generate a proton-motive force. Giant viruses likely provision multiple host species with photoheterotrophic capacities, including predatory unicellular relatives of animals.

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Closely related viruses of the marine picoeukaryotic alga Ostreococcus lucimarinus exhibit different ecological strategies

Zimmerman AE, Bachy C, Ma X, Roux S, Jang HB, Sullivan MB, Waldbauer JR, Worden AZ – Environmental Microbiology

In marine ecosystems, viruses are major disrupters of the direct flow of carbon and nutrients to higher trophic levels. Although the genetic diversity of several eukaryotic phytoplankton virus groups has been characterized, their infection dynamics are less understood, such that the physiological and ecological implications of their diversity remain unclear. We compared genomes and infection phenotypes of the two most closely related cultured phycodnaviruses infecting the widespread picoprasinophyte Ostreococcus lucimarinus under standard‐ (1.3 divisions per day) and limited‐light (0.41 divisions per day) nutrient replete conditions. OlV7 infection caused early arrest of the host cell cycle, coinciding with a significantly higher proportion of infected cells than OlV1‐amended treatments, regardless of host growth rate. OlV7 treatments showed a near‐50‐fold increase of progeny virions at the higher host growth rate, contrasting with OlV1’s 16‐fold increase. However, production of OlV7 virions was more sensitive than OlV1 production to reduced host growth rate, suggesting fitness trade‐offs between infection efficiency and resilience to host physiology. Moreover, although organic matter released from OlV1‐ and OlV7‐infected hosts had broadly similar chemical composition, some distinct molecular signatures were observed. Collectively, these results suggest that current views on viral relatedness through marker and core gene analyses underplay operational divergence and consequences for host ecology.

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