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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2000 Nov;66(11):4916-20.

Viral impacts on total abundance and clonal composition of the harmful bloom-forming phytoplankton Heterosigma akashiwo.

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  • 1Harmful Phytoplankton Section, Harmful Algal Bloom Division, National Research Institute of Fisheries and Environment of Inland Sea, 2-17-5 Maruishi, Ohno, Saeki, Hiroshima 739-0452, Japan.


Recent observations that viruses are very abundant and biologically active components in marine ecosystems suggest that they probably influence various biogeochemical and ecological processes. In this study, the population dynamics of the harmful bloom-forming phytoplankton Heterosigma akashiwo (Raphidophyceae) and the infectious H. akashiwo viruses (HaV) were monitored in Hiroshima Bay, Japan, from May to July 1998. Concurrently, a number of H. akashiwo and HaV clones were isolated, and their virus susceptibilities and host ranges were determined through laboratory cross-reactivity tests. A sudden decrease in cell density of H. akashiwo was accompanied by a drastic increase in the abundance of HaV, suggesting that viruses contributed greatly to the disintegration of the H. akashiwo bloom as mortality agents. Despite the large quantity of infectious HaV, however, a significant proportion of H. akashiwo cells survived after the bloom disintegration. The viral susceptibility of H. akashiwo isolates demonstrated that the majority of these surviving cells were resistant to most of the HaV clones, whereas resistant cells were a minor component during the bloom period. Moreover, these resistant cells were displaced by susceptible cells, presumably due to viral infection. These results demonstrated that the properties of dominant cells within the H. akashiwo population change during the period when a bloom is terminated by viral infection, suggesting that viruses also play an important role in determining the clonal composition and maintaining the clonal diversity of H. akashiwo populations. Therefore, our data indicate that viral infection influences the total abundance and the clonal composition of one host algal species, suggesting that viruses are an important component in quantitatively and qualitatively controlling phytoplankton populations in natural marine environments.

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