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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 82:161-175 (2018)  -  DOI:

Algal viruses and cyanophages have distinct distributions in Lake Erie sediments

Andrew M. Long1,4,*, Michael A. Staniewski2, Steven W. Wilhelm3, Steven M. Short1,2

1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3B2, Canada
2Department of Biology, University of Toronto Mississauga, Mississauga, Ontario L5L 1C6, Canada
3Department of Microbiology, University of Tennessee Knoxville, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-1937, USA
4Present address: Department of Biological Sciences - Marine and Environmental Biology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089-0371, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Algal viruses and cyanophages infect primary producers and have wide-ranging effects upon the food web and biogeochemical cycles. However, little is known about the diversity and distribution of these viruses in freshwater sediments. To address this information gap, sediment core samples were collected from Lake Erie at 4 distinct sites across its 3 basins. PCR primers targeting polB gene sequences of phycodnaviruses and viral capsid assembly genes (g20) of cyanomyoviruses were used to examine the diversity of viral sequences. Additionally, quantitative PCR primers and probes were used to estimate the abundances of algal virus and cyanophage genes at each location. PCR and sequencing of polB and g20 genes revealed diverse assemblages of putative phycodnaviruses and cyanomyoviruses, uncovering novel viral gene sequences and some related to virus genes observed previously in water column samples. Wide abundance ranges of 11 different algal virus (from below detection to 1.43 × 106 gene copies per gram wet sediment) and cyanophage (from below detection to 2.39 × 104 gene copies per gram wet sediment) genes were detected using quantitative PCR. Abundance patterns were spatially variable and distinct for different virus genes. Algal viruses tended to be more abundant in the central and eastern basins, while cyanophages tended to be more abundant in the western basin. The observed diversity of viruses, coupled with the high abundances of several virus genes, suggests that aquatic sediments are an important environmental refugium for phytoplankton viruses and that their geographic patterns may reflect local host abundances.

KEY WORDS: Phycodnavirus · Cyanomyovirus · qPCR · Freshwater · Algae · Cyanobacteria

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Cite this article as: Long AM, Staniewski MA, Wilhelm SW, Short SM (2018) Algal viruses and cyanophages have distinct distributions in Lake Erie sediments. Aquat Microb Ecol 82:161-175.

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