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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2000 Sep;66(9):3790-7.

Rapid virus production and removal as measured with fluorescently labeled viruses as tracers.

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University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089-0371, USA.


Pelagic marine viruses have been shown to cause significant mortality of heterotrophic bacteria, cyanobacteria, and phytoplankton. It was previously demonstrated, in nearshore California waters, that viruses contributed to up to 50% of bacterial mortality, comparable to protists. However, in less productive waters, rates of virus production and removal and estimates of virus-mediated bacterial mortality have been difficult to determine. We have measured rates of virus production and removal, in nearshore and offshore California waters, by using fluorescently labeled viruses (FLV) as tracers. Our approach is mathematically similar to the isotope dilution technique, employed in the past to simultaneously measure the release and uptake of ammonia and amino acids. The results indicated overall virus removal rates in the dark ranging from 1.8 to 6.2% h(-1) and production rates in the dark ranging from 1.9 to 6.1% h(-1), corresponding to turnover times of virus populations of 1 to 2 days, even in oligotrophic offshore waters. Virus removal rates determined by the FLV tracer method were compared to rates of virus degradation, determined at the same locations by radiolabeling methods, and were similar even though the current FLV method is suitable for only dark incubations. Our results support previous findings that virus impacts on bacterial populations may be more important in some environments and less so in others. This new method can be used to determine rates of virus degradation, production, and turnover in eutrophic, mesotrophic, and oligotrophic waters and will provide important inputs for future investigations of microbial food webs.

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