Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A new giant virus found in the waters of Oahu, Hawaii

03.05.2018

Researchers at the Daniel K. Inouye Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) at the University of Hawai'i (UH) at Mānoa have characterized a new, unusually large virus that infects common marine algae. Found in the coastal waters off Oahu, Hawai'i, it contains the biggest genome ever sequenced for a virus infecting a photosynthetic organism.

"Most people are familiar with viruses," said Christopher Schvarcz, the UH Mānoa oceanography graduate student who led the project as part of his doctoral dissertation, "because there are so many that cause diseases in humans. But we are not alone; even the microscopic plankton in the ocean are constantly battling viral infections."


Coastal waters can turn green as shown here at Waimanalo Beach (left panel) when tiny single-celled algae in the genus Tetraselmis (inset) grow to high concentrations.

Credit: Lydia Baker, UH Manoa, SOEST

Usage Restrictions: Image may only be used with appropriate caption and credit


The virus TetV is able to replicate inside the algal cell (right panel, scale bar=1 μm), ultimately killing the cell and releasing free virus particles (inset, scale bar 0.2 μm).

Credit: Christopher Schvarcz, UH Manoa, SOEST

Usage Restrictions: Image may only be used with appropriate caption and credit

Much of the phytoplankton that grows in the ocean every day gets eaten, thereby sustaining animals in the marine food web. It is common, however, for viral infections to spread through populations of phytoplankton. When this happens, the infected phytoplankton cells disintegrate and are decomposed by bacteria, diverting that food source away from the animals.

"That sounds bad," said Grieg Steward, professor in the UH Mānoa Department of Oceanography and co-author on the study, "but viruses actually help maintain balance in the marine ecosystem. Viruses spread more efficiently through highly concentrated populations, so if one type of phytoplankton grows faster than the others and starts to dominate, it can get knocked down to lower levels by a viral infection, giving the other species a chance to thrive."

Viruses have to replicate inside of cells, putting some constraints on how big they can be, but the known upper size limit of viruses has been creeping upward over the past 15 years as researchers have focused on finding more examples of what are now referred to as "giant" viruses.

"Most viruses are so tiny that we need an electron microscope to see them," said Steward "but these giants rival bacteria in size, and their genomes often code for functions we have never seen in viruses before."

The virus described by Schvarcz and Steward in their recent paper in the journal Virology was named TetV-1, because it infects single-celled algae called Tetraselmis. After sequencing its genome, Schvarcz discovered that the virus has a number of genes that it seems to have picked up from the alga it infects. Two of these appear to code for enzymes involved in fermentation, which is a process used by microorganisms to get energy from sugars in the absence of oxygen. Fermentation is familiar to many of us, because it is the key to making beer, wine, and spirits. Why would a virus need these genes? The authors don't know for sure, but they have a guess.

"Tetraselmis can grow to extraordinarily high concentrations in coastal waters," explains Schvarcz, "turning the water from clear blue to an intense green. If TetV were to spread under those conditions, huge numbers of cells would succumb to viral infection. Bacteria would immediately begin decomposing the dead algae and quickly use up all the oxygen in the water. We think that the fermentation genes in TetV may allow the virus to maintain its energy flow under low oxygen conditions even as it shuts down the host cell systems."

Schvarcz and Steward plan to conduct field and lab experiments to test whether this idea is correct. Tetraselmis is used as a food source for aquaculture and as a source of starch for the biofuel industry, so the authors speculate that understanding exactly how TetV manipulates the metabolism of its host might have some practical applications. The ability of TetV to inject DNA into these cells might be exploited, for example, to reprogram the algae to make more of a desired product.

"We have more to learn about this particular virus," mused Steward "and its just one example plucked from an ocean that has millions of them floating in every teaspoon."

Considering the numbers, it seems certain there are many more unusual viruses waiting to be discovered just under the next wave.

Media Contact

Marcie Grabowski
mworkman@hawaii.edu
808-956-3151

 @UHManoaNews

http://manoa.hawaii.edu 

Marcie Grabowski | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.virol.2018.03.010

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A new 'cool' blue
17.01.2020 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Neuromuscular organoid: It’s contracting!
17.01.2020 | Max-Delbrück-Centrum für Molekulare Medizin in der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Miniature double glazing: Material developed which is heat-insulating and heat-conducting at the same time

Styrofoam or copper - both materials have very different properties with regard to their ability to conduct heat. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz and the University of Bayreuth have now jointly developed and characterized a novel, extremely thin and transparent material that has different thermal conduction properties depending on the direction. While it can conduct heat extremely well in one direction, it shows good thermal insulation in the other direction.

Thermal insulation and thermal conduction play a crucial role in our everyday lives - from computer processors, where it is important to dissipate heat as...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer IAF establishes an application laboratory for quantum sensors

In order to advance the transfer of research developments from the field of quantum sensor technology into industrial applications, an application laboratory is being established at Fraunhofer IAF. This will enable interested companies and especially regional SMEs and start-ups to evaluate the innovation potential of quantum sensors for their specific requirements. Both the state of Baden-Württemberg and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft are supporting the four-year project with one million euros each.

The application laboratory is being set up as part of the Fraunhofer lighthouse project »QMag«, short for quantum magnetometry. In this project, researchers...

Im Focus: How Cells Assemble Their Skeleton

Researchers study the formation of microtubules

Microtubules, filamentous structures within the cell, are required for many important processes, including cell division and intracellular transport. A...

Im Focus: World Premiere in Zurich: Machine keeps human livers alive for one week outside of the body

Researchers from the University Hospital Zurich, ETH Zurich, Wyss Zurich and the University of Zurich have developed a machine that repairs injured human livers and keep them alive outside the body for one week. This breakthrough may increase the number of available organs for transplantation saving many lives of patients with severe liver diseases or cancer.

Until now, livers could be stored safely outside the body for only a few hours. With the novel perfusion technology, livers - and even injured livers - can now...

Im Focus: SuperTIGER on its second prowl -- 130,000 feet above Antarctica

A balloon-borne scientific instrument designed to study the origin of cosmic rays is taking its second turn high above the continent of Antarctica three and a half weeks after its launch.

SuperTIGER (Super Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder) is designed to measure the rare, heavy elements in cosmic rays that hold clues about their origins...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

11th Advanced Battery Power Conference, March 24-25, 2020 in Münster/Germany

16.01.2020 | Event News

Laser Colloquium Hydrogen LKH2: fast and reliable fuel cell manufacturing

15.01.2020 | Event News

„Advanced Battery Power“- Conference, Contributions are welcome!

07.01.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

A new 'cool' blue

17.01.2020 | Life Sciences

EU-project SONAR: Better batteries for electricity from renewable energy sources

17.01.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Neuromuscular organoid: It’s contracting!

17.01.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>