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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2005 Feb;71(2):629-35.

Identification of cyanophage Ma-LBP and infection of the cyanobacterium Microcystis aeruginosa from an Australian subtropical lake by the virus.

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  • 1Centre for Riverine Landscapes, School of Environmental Engineering, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland 4111, Australia.


Viruses can control the structure of bacterial communities in aquatic environments. The aim of this project was to determine if cyanophages (viruses specific to cyanobacteria) could exert a controlling influence on the abundance of the potentially toxic cyanobacterium Microcystis aeruginosa (host). M. aeruginosa was isolated, cultured, and characterized from a subtropical monomictic lake-Lake Baroon, Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. The viral communities in the lake were separated from cyanobacterial grazers by filtration and chloroform washing. The natural lake viral cocktail was incubated with the M. aeruginosa host growing under optimal light and nutrient conditions. The specific growth rate of the host was 0.023 h(-1); generation time, 30.2 h. Within 6 days, the host abundance decreased by 95%. The density of the cyanophage was positively correlated with the rate of M. aeruginosa cell lysis (r(2) = 0.95). The cyanophage replication time was 11.2 h, with an average burst size of 28 viral particles per host cell. However, in 3 weeks, the cultured host community recovered, possibly because the host developed resistance (immunity) to the cyanophage. The multiplicity of infection was determined to be 2,890 virus-like particles/cultured host cell, using an undiluted lake viral population. Transmission electron microscopy showed that two types of virus were likely controlling the host cyanobacterial abundance. Both viruses displayed T7-like morphology and belonged to the Podoviridiae group (short tails) of viruses that we called cyanophage Ma-LBP. In Lake Baroon, the number of the cyanophage Ma-LBP was 5.6 x 10(4) cyanophage x ml(-1), representing 0.23% of the natural viral population of 2.46 x 10(7) x ml(-1). Our results showed that this cyanophage could be a major natural control mechanism of M. aeruginosa abundance in aquatic ecosystems like Lake Baroon. Future studies of potentially toxic cyanobacterial blooms need to consider factors that influence cyanophage attachment, infectivity, and lysis of their host alongside the physical and chemical parameters that drive cyanobacterial growth and production.

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