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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 89:75-86 (2023)  -  DOI:

Quorum sensing signal disrupts viral infection dynamics in the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi

Elizabeth L. Harvey1, Han Yang2, Emma Castiblanco2, Megan Coolahan2, Genevieve Dallmeyer-Drennen2, Naomi Fukuda2, Eleanor Greene2, Marley Gonsalves1, Sara Smith1, Kristen E. Whalen2,*

1Department of Biological Sciences, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA
2Biology Department, Haverford College, Haverford, PA 19041, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Viruses that infect phytoplankton are abundant in all regions of the global ocean. Despite their ubiquity, little is understood regarding how biotic interactions can alter virus infection success as well as the fate of phytoplankton hosts. In previous work, the bacterially derived compound 2-heptyl-4-quinolone (HHQ) has been shown to protect the cosmopolitan coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi from virus-induced mortality. The present study explores the potential mechanisms through which protection is conferred. Using a suite of transmission electron microscopy and physiological diagnostic staining techniques, we show that when E. huxleyi is exposed to HHQ, viruses can gain entry into cells but viral replication and release is inhibited. These findings are supported by a smaller burst size, as well as lower infectious and total virus production when the host is treated with nanomolar concentrations of HHQ. Additionally, diagnostic staining results indicate that programmed cell death markers commonly associated with viral infection are not activated when infected E. huxleyi are exposed to HHQ. Together, these results suggest that the ability of HHQ to inhibit infectious viral production protects the alga not from getting infected, but from cell lysis. This work identifies a new mechanistic role of bacterial quorum sensing molecules in mediating viral infections in marine microbial systems.

KEY WORDS: Phytoplankton · Bacteria · HHQ · Microbial interactions · Viral infection

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Cite this article as: Harvey EL, Yang H, Castiblanco E, Coolahan M and others (2023) Quorum sensing signal disrupts viral infection dynamics in the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi. Aquat Microb Ecol 89:75-86.

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