Spatiotemporal Variations in Antarctic Protistan Communities Highlight Phytoplankton Diversity and Seasonal Dominance by a Novel Cryptophyte Lineage

Maria Hamilton, Martina Mascioni, Elisabeth Hehenberger, Charles Bachy, CharmaineYung, Maria Vernet, and Alexandra Z. Worden


The Andvord fjord in the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) is known for its productivity and abundant megafauna. Nevertheless, seasonal patterns of the molecular diversity and abundance of protistan community members underpinning WAP productivity remain poorly resolved. We performed spring and fall expeditions pursuing protistan diversity, abundance of photosynthetic taxa, and the connection to changing conditions. 18S rRNA amplicon sequence variant (ASV) profiles revealed diverse predatory protists spanning multiple eukaryotic supergroups, alongside enigmatic heterotrophs like the Picozoa. Among photosynthetic protists, cryptophyte contributions were notable. Analysis of plastid-derived 16S rRNA ASVs supported 18S ASV results, including a dichotomy between cryptophytes and diatom contributions previously reported in other Antarctic regions. We demonstrate that stramenopile and cryptophyte community structures have distinct attributes. Photosynthetic stramenopiles exhibit high diversity, with the polar diatom Fragilariopsis cylindrus, unidentified Chaetoceros species, and others being prominent. Conversely, ASV analyses followed by environmental full-length rRNA gene sequencing, electron microscopy, and flow cytometry revealed that a novel alga dominates the cryptophytes. Phylogenetic analyses established that TPG clade VII, as named here, is evolutionarily distinct from cultivated cryptophyte lineages. Additionally, cryptophyte cell abundance correlated with increased water temperature. Analyses of global data sets showed that clade VII dominates cryptophyte ASVs at Southern Ocean sites and appears to be endemic, whereas in the Arctic and elsewhere, Teleaulax amphioxeia and Plagioselmis prolonga dominate, although both were undetected in Antarctic waters. Collectively, our studies provide baseline data against which future change can be assessed, identify different diversification patterns between stramenopiles and cryptophytes, and highlight an evolutionarily distinct cryptophyte clade that thrives under conditions enhanced by warming.
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Viruses infecting a warm water picoeukaryote shed light on spatial co-occurrence dynamics of marine viruses and their hosts

Charles Bachy, Charmaine C. M. Yung, David M. Needham, Maria Consuelo Gazitúa, Simon Roux, Alexander J. Limardo, Chang Jae Choi, Danielle M. Jorgens, Matthew B. Sullivan & Alexandra Z. Worden

Abstract – The marine picoeukaryote Bathycoccus prasinos has been considered a cosmopolitan alga, although recent studies indicate two ecotypes exist, Clade BI (B. prasinos) and Clade BII. Viruses that infect Bathycoccus Clade BI are known (BpVs), but not that infect BII. We isolated three dsDNA prasinoviruses from the Sargasso Sea against Clade BII isolate RCC716. The BII-Vs do not infect BI, and two (BII-V2 and BII-V3) have larger genomes (~210 kb) than BI-Viruses and BII-V1. BII-Vs share ~90% of their proteins, and between 65% to 83% of their proteins with sequenced BpVs. Phylogenomic reconstructions and PolB analyses establish close-relatedness of BII-V2 and BII-V3, yet BII-V2 has 10-fold higher infectivity and induces greater mortality on host isolate RCC716. BII-V1 is more distant, has a shorter latent period, and infects both available BII isolates, RCC716 and RCC715, while BII-V2 and BII-V3 do not exhibit productive infection of the latter in our experiments. Global metagenome analyses show Clade BI and BII algal relative abundances correlate positively with their respective viruses. The distributions delineate BI/BpVs as occupying lower temperature mesotrophic and coastal systems, whereas BII/BII-Vs occupy warmer temperature, higher salinity ecosystems. Accordingly, with molecular diagnostic support, we name Clade BII Bathycoccus calidus sp. nov. and propose that molecular diversity within this new species likely connects to the differentiated host-virus dynamics observed in our time course experiments. Overall, the tightly linked biogeography of Bathycoccus host and virus clades observed herein supports species-level host specificity, with strain-level variations in infection parameters.

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