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Title: Temperate infection in a virus–host system previously known for virulent dynamics
Abstract The blooming cosmopolitan coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi and its viruses (EhVs) are a model for density-dependent virulent dynamics. EhVs commonly exhibit rapid viral reproduction and drive host death in high-density laboratory cultures and mesocosms that simulate blooms. Here we show that this system exhibits physiology-dependent temperate dynamics at environmentally relevant E. huxleyi host densities rather than virulent dynamics, with viruses switching from a long-term non-lethal temperate phase in healthy hosts to a lethal lytic stage as host cells become physiologically stressed. Using this system as a model for temperate infection dynamics, we present a template to diagnose temperate infection in other virus–host systems by integrating experimental, theoretical, and environmental approaches. Finding temperate dynamics in such an established virulent host–virus model system indicates that temperateness may be more pervasive than previously considered, and that the role of viruses in bloom formation and decline may be governed by host physiology rather than by host–virus densities.  more » « less
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Nature Communications
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Summary

    Coccolithoviruses(EhVs) are large, double‐stranded DNA‐containing viruses that infect the single‐celled, marine coccolithophoreEmiliania huxleyi. Given the cosmopolitan nature and global importance ofE. huxleyias a bloom‐forming, calcifying, photoautotroph,E. huxleyi–EhV interactions play a key role in oceanic carbon biogeochemistry. Virally‐encoded glycosphingolipids (vGSLs) are virulence factors that are produced by the activity of virus‐encoded serine palmitoyltransferase (SPT). Here, we characterize the dynamics, diversity and catalytic production of vGSLs in an array of EhV strains in relation to their SPT sequence composition and explore the hypothesis that they are a determinant of infectivity and host demise. vGSL production and diversity was positively correlated with increased virulence, virus replication rate and lytic infection dynamics in laboratory experiments, but they do not explain the success of less‐virulent EhVs in natural EhV communities. The majority of EhV‐derived SPT amplicon sequences associated with infected cells in the North Atlantic derived from slower infecting, less virulent EhVs. Our lab‐, field‐ and mathematical model‐based data and simulations support ecological scenarios whereby slow‐infecting, less‐virulent EhVs successfully compete in North Atlantic populations ofE. huxleyi, through either the preferential removal of fast‐infecting, virulent EhVs during active infection or by having access to a broader host range.

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