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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1993 Dec;59(12):4074-82.

Distribution of Viruses and Dissolved DNA along a Coastal Trophic Gradient in the Northern Adriatic Sea.

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Institute of Zoology, University of Vienna, Althanstrasse 14, A-1090 Vienna, Austria, and Ruder Boskovic Institute, Center for Marine Research-Rovinj, 52210 Rovinj, Croatia.


The distribution of viral and other microbial abundances as well as the concentrations of dissolved DNA (D-DNA) along a trophic gradient in the northern Adriatic Sea were determined. Virus abundances, covering a range of 1.2 x 10 to 8.7 x 10 liter were on average 2.5-fold higher in eutrophic than in mesotrophic stations. A 2.5-fold enrichment was also measured for chlorophyll a concentrations, whereas the densities of bacteria and heterotrophic nanoflagellates were only approximately 1.5-fold higher. The frequency of bacteria containing mature phage increased linearly with bacterial abundance. Assuming that mature phage is only visible during the last 14 to 27% of the latent period (L. M. Proctor, A. Okubo, and J. A. Fuhrman, Microb. Ecol. 25:161-182, 1993), we estimated that between 3.5 and 7.3% of the bacterial population was infected at mesotrophic stations versus between 7.0 and 19.5% at eutrophic stations, indicating that the bacterial mortality due to viral lysis might increase with the degree of eutrophication. The frequency of bacteria with mature phage and the burst size varied significantly with the bacterial morphotype; rod-shape cells, the most abundant morphotype, showed low infection rates but a high burst size. Concentrations of D-DNA varied significantly with season but not with trophic conditions. The estimated percentage of viral DNA on total D-DNA concentrations averaged 17.1% (range, 0.7 to 88.3%). Some kind of interaction between heterotrophic nanoflagellates and viruses is proposed. We conclude (i) that the significance of viruses varies with changing trophic conditions and (ii) that viral activity may play a significant role in food web structure under changing trophic conditions.

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