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Creators/Authors contains: "Harrison, Amelia O."

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  1. Abstract

    Through infection and lysis of their coexisting bacterial hosts, viruses impact the biogeochemical cycles sustaining globally significant pelagic oceanic ecosystems. Currently, little is known of the ecological interactions between lytic viruses and their bacterial hosts underlying these biogeochemical impacts at ecosystem scales. This study focused on populations of lytic viruses carrying the B12-dependent Class II monomeric ribonucleotide reductase (RNR) gene, ribonucleotide-triphosphate reductase (Class II RTPR), documenting seasonal changes in pelagic virioplankton and bacterioplankton using amplicon sequences of Class II RTPR and the 16S rRNA gene, respectively. Amplicon sequence libraries were analyzed using compositional data analysis tools that account for the compositional nature of these data. Both virio- and bacterioplankton communities responded to environmental changes typically seen across seasonal cycles as well as shorter term upwelling–downwelling events. Defining Class II RTPR-carrying viral populations according to major phylogenetic clades proved a more robust means of exploring virioplankton ecology than operational taxonomic units defined by percent sequence homology. Virioplankton Class II RTPR populations showed positive associations with a broad phylogenetic diversity of bacterioplankton including dominant taxa within pelagic oceanic ecosystems such as Prochlorococcus and SAR11. Temporal changes in Class II RTPR virioplankton, occurring as both free viruses and within infected cells, indicated possible viral–host pairs undergoing sustained infection and lysis cycles throughout the seasonal study. Phylogenetic relationships inferred from Class II RTPR sequences mirrored ecological patterns in virio- and bacterioplankton populations demonstrating possible genome to phenome associations for an essential viral replication gene.

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  2. Viruses are the most abundant and diverse biological entities on the planet and constitute a significant proportion of Earth’s genetic diversity. Most of this diversity is not represented by isolated viral-host systems and has only been observed through sequencing of viral metagenomes (viromes) from environmental samples. Viromes provide snapshots of viral genetic potential, and a wealth of information on viral community ecology. These data also provide opportunities for exploring the biochemistry of novel viral enzymes. The in vitro biochemical characteristics of novel viral DNA polymerases were explored, testing hypothesized differences in polymerase biochemistry according to protein sequence phylogeny. Forty-eight viral DNA Polymerase I (PolA) proteins from estuarine viromes, hot spring metagenomes, and reference viruses, encompassing a broad representation of currently known diversity, were synthesized, expressed, and purified. Novel functionality was shown in multiple PolAs. Intriguingly, some of the estuarine viral polymerases demonstrated moderate to strong innate DNA strand displacement activity at high enzyme concentration. Strand-displacing polymerases have important technological applications where isothermal reactions are desirable. Bioinformatic investigation of genes neighboring these strand displacing polymerases found associations with SNF2 helicase-associated proteins. The specific function of SNF2 family enzymes is unknown for prokaryotes and viruses. In eukaryotes, SNF2 enzymes have chromatin remodeling functions but do not separate nucleic acid strands. This suggests the strand separation function may be fulfilled by the DNA polymerase for viruses carrying SNF2 helicase-associated proteins. Biochemical data elucidated from this study expands understanding of the biology and ecological behavior of unknown viruses. Moreover, given the numerous biotechnological applications of viral DNA polymerases, novel viral polymerases discovered within viromes may be a rich source of biological material for further in vitro DNA amplification advancements. 
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  3. Phylogenetic trees are an important analytical tool for evaluating community diversity and evolutionary history. In the case of microorganisms, the decreasing cost of sequencing has enabled researchers to generate ever-larger sequence datasets, which in turn have begun to fill gaps in the evolutionary history of microbial groups. However, phylogenetic analyses of these types of datasets create complex trees that can be challenging to interpret. Scientific inferences made by visual inspection of phylogenetic trees can be simplified and enhanced by customizing various parts of the tree. Yet, manual customization is time-consuming and error prone, and programs designed to assist in batch tree customization often require programming experience or complicated file formats for annotation. Iroki, a user-friendly web interface for tree visualization, addresses these issues by providing automatic customization of large trees based on metadata contained in tab-separated text files. Iroki’s utility for exploring biological and ecological trends in sequencing data was demonstrated through a variety of microbial ecology applications in which trees with hundreds to thousands of leaf nodes were customized according to extensive collections of metadata. The Iroki web application and documentation are available at or through the VIROME portal . Iroki’s source code is released under the MIT license and is available at . 
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