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  1. Abstract

    Our knowledge of viral sequence space has exploded with advancing sequencing technologies and large-scale sampling and analytical efforts. Though archaea are important and abundant prokaryotes in many systems, our knowledge of archaeal viruses outside of extreme environments is limited. This largely stems from the lack of a robust, high-throughput, and systematic way to distinguish between bacterial and archaeal viruses in datasets of curated viruses. Here we upgrade our prior text-based tool (MArVD) via training and testing a random forest machine learning algorithm against a newly curated dataset of archaeal viruses. After optimization, MArVD2 presented a significant improvement over its predecessor in terms of scalability, usability, and flexibility, and will allow user-defined custom training datasets as archaeal virus discovery progresses. Benchmarking showed that a model trained with viral sequences from the hypersaline, marine, and hot spring environments correctly classified 85% of the archaeal viruses with a false detection rate below 2% using a random forest prediction threshold of 80% in a separate benchmarking dataset from the same habitats.

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  2. Abstract

    Many microbes in nature reside in dense, metabolically interdependent communities. We investigated the nature and extent of microbe-virus interactions in relation to microbial density and syntrophy by examining microbe-virus interactions in a biomass dense, deep-sea hydrothermal mat. Using metagenomic sequencing, we find numerous instances where phylogenetically distant (up to domain level) microbes encode CRISPR-based immunity against the same viruses in the mat. Evidence of viral interactions with hosts cross-cutting microbial domains is particularly striking between known syntrophic partners, for example those engaged in anaerobic methanotrophy. These patterns are corroborated by proximity-ligation-based (Hi-C) inference. Surveys of public datasets reveal additional viruses interacting with hosts across domains in diverse ecosystems known to harbour syntrophic biofilms. We propose that the entry of viral particles and/or DNA to non-primary host cells may be a common phenomenon in densely populated ecosystems, with eco-evolutionary implications for syntrophic microbes and CRISPR-mediated inter-population augmentation of resilience against viruses.

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  3. Makhalanyane, Thulani P. (Ed.)

    The biology and ecology of marine microbial eukaryotes is known to be constrained by oceanic conditions. In contrast, how viruses that infect this important group of organisms respond to environmental change is less well known, despite viruses being recognized as key microbial community members.

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  4. Abstract

    Viruses are the most numerically abundant biological entities on Earth. As ubiquitous replicators of molecular information and agents of community change, viruses have potent effects on the life on Earth, and may play a critical role in human spaceflight, for life-detection missions to other planetary bodies and planetary protection. However, major knowledge gaps constrain our understanding of the Earth's virosphere: (1) the role viruses play in biogeochemical cycles, (2) the origin(s) of viruses and (3) the involvement of viruses in the evolution, distribution and persistence of life. As viruses are the only replicators that span all known types of nucleic acids, an expanded experimental and theoretical toolbox built for Earth's viruses will be pivotal for detecting and understanding life on Earth and beyond. Only by filling in these knowledge and technical gaps we will obtain an inclusive assessment of how to distinguish and detect life on other planetary surfaces. Meanwhile, space exploration requires life-support systems for the needs of humans, plants and their microbial inhabitants. Viral effects on microbes and plants are essential for Earth's biosphere and human health, but virus–host interactions in spaceflight are poorly understood. Viral relationships with their hosts respond to environmental changes in complex ways which are difficult to predict by extrapolating from Earth-based proxies. These relationships should be studied in space to fully understand how spaceflight will modulate viral impacts on human health and life-support systems, including microbiomes. In this review, we address key questions that must be examined to incorporate viruses into Earth system models, life-support systems and life detection. Tackling these questions will benefit our efforts to develop planetary protection protocols and further our understanding of viruses in astrobiology.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  5. Abstract Background

    Rock-dwelling microorganisms are key players in ecosystem functioning of Antarctic ice free-areas. Yet, little is known about their diversity and ecology, and further still, viruses in these communities have been largely unexplored despite important roles related to host metabolism and nutrient cycling. To begin to address this, we present a large-scale viral catalog from Antarctic rock microbial communities.


    We performed metagenomic analyses on rocks from across Antarctica representing a broad range of environmental and spatial conditions, and which resulted in a predicted viral catalog comprising > 75,000 viral operational taxonomic units (vOTUS). We found largely undescribed, highly diverse and spatially structured virus communities which had predicted auxiliary metabolic genes (AMGs) with functions indicating that they may be potentially influencing bacterial adaptation and biogeochemistry.


    This catalog lays the foundation for expanding knowledge of virosphere diversity, function, spatial ecology, and dynamics in extreme environments. This work serves as a step towards exploring adaptability of microbial communities in the face of a changing climate.

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  6. Abstract

    The fate of oceanic carbon and nutrients depends on interactions between viruses, prokaryotes, and unicellular eukaryotes (protists) in a highly interconnected planktonic food web. To date, few controlled mechanistic studies of these interactions exist, and where they do, they are largely pairwise, focusing either on viral infection (i.e., virocells) or protist predation. Here we studied population-level responses of Synechococcus cyanobacterial virocells (i.e., cyanovirocells) to the protist Oxyrrhis marina using transcriptomics, endo- and exo-metabolomics, photosynthetic efficiency measurements, and microscopy. Protist presence had no measurable impact on Synechococcus transcripts or endometabolites. The cyanovirocells alone had a smaller intracellular transcriptional and metabolic response than cyanovirocells co-cultured with protists, displaying known patterns of virus-mediated metabolic reprogramming while releasing diverse exometabolites during infection. When protists were added, several exometabolites disappeared, suggesting microbial consumption. In addition, the intracellular cyanovirocell impact was largest, with 4.5- and 10-fold more host transcripts and endometabolites, respectively, responding to protists, especially those involved in resource and energy production. Physiologically, photosynthetic efficiency also increased, and together with the transcriptomics and metabolomics findings suggest that cyanovirocell metabolic demand is highest when protists are present. These data illustrate cyanovirocell responses to protist presence that are not yet considered when linking microbial physiology to global-scale biogeochemical processes.

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  7. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Microbial sulfur metabolism contributes to biogeochemical cycling on global scales. Sulfur metabolizing microbes are infected by phages that can encode auxiliary metabolic genes (AMGs) to alter sulfur metabolism within host cells but remain poorly characterized. Here we identified 191 phages derived from twelve environments that encoded 227 AMGs for oxidation of sulfur and thiosulfate ( dsrA , dsrC/tusE , soxC , soxD and soxYZ ). Evidence for retention of AMGs during niche-differentiation of diverse phage populations provided evidence that auxiliary metabolism imparts measurable fitness benefits to phages with ramifications for ecosystem biogeochemistry. Gene abundance and expression profiles of AMGs suggested significant contributions by phages to sulfur and thiosulfate oxidation in freshwater lakes and oceans, and a sensitive response to changing sulfur concentrations in hydrothermal environments. Overall, our study provides fundamental insights on the distribution, diversity, and ecology of phage auxiliary metabolism associated with sulfur and reinforces the necessity of incorporating viral contributions into biogeochemical configurations. 
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  8. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Background Viruses are a significant player in many biosphere and human ecosystems, but most signals remain “hidden” in metagenomic/metatranscriptomic sequence datasets due to the lack of universal gene markers, database representatives, and insufficiently advanced identification tools. Results Here, we introduce VirSorter2, a DNA and RNA virus identification tool that leverages genome-informed database advances across a collection of customized automatic classifiers to improve the accuracy and range of virus sequence detection. When benchmarked against genomes from both isolated and uncultivated viruses, VirSorter2 uniquely performed consistently with high accuracy (F1-score > 0.8) across viral diversity, while all other tools under-detected viruses outside of the group most represented in reference databases (i.e., those in the order Caudovirales ). Among the tools evaluated, VirSorter2 was also uniquely able to minimize errors associated with atypical cellular sequences including eukaryotic genomes and plasmids. Finally, as the virosphere exploration unravels novel viral sequences, VirSorter2’s modular design makes it inherently able to expand to new types of viruses via the design of new classifiers to maintain maximal sensitivity and specificity. Conclusion With multi-classifier and modular design, VirSorter2 demonstrates higher overall accuracy across major viral groups and will advance our knowledge of virus evolution, diversity, and virus-microbe interaction in various ecosystems. Source code of VirSorter2 is freely available ( ), and VirSorter2 is also available both on bioconda and as an iVirus app on CyVerse ( ). 
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  9. Abstract

    Microbial communities in oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) are known to have significant impacts on global biogeochemical cycles, but viral influence on microbial processes in these regions are much less studied. Here we provide baseline ecological patterns using microscopy and viral metagenomics from the Eastern Tropical North Pacific (ETNP) OMZ region that enhance our understanding of viruses in these climate-critical systems. While extracellular viral abundance decreased below the oxycline, viral diversity and lytic infection frequency remained high within the OMZ, demonstrating that viral influences on microbial communities were still substantial without the detectable presence of oxygen. Viral community composition was strongly related to oxygen concentration, with viral populations in low-oxygen portions of the water column being distinct from their surface layer counterparts. However, this divergence was not accompanied by the expected differences in viral-encoded auxiliary metabolic genes (AMGs) relating to nitrogen and sulfur metabolisms that are known to be performed by microbial communities in these low-oxygen and anoxic regions. Instead, several abundant AMGs were identified in the oxycline and OMZ that may modulate host responses to low-oxygen stress. We hypothesize that this is due to selection for viral-encoded genes that influence host survivability rather than modulating host metabolic reactions within the ETNP OMZ. Together, this study shows that viruses are not only diverse throughout the water column in the ETNP, including the OMZ, but their infection of microorganisms has the potential to alter host physiological state within these biogeochemically important regions of the ocean.

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  10. null (Ed.)
    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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