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ISME J. 2008 Feb;2(2):132-44. Epub 2007 Nov 29.

Comparison of lysogeny (prophage induction) in heterotrophic bacterial and Synechococcus populations in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River plume.

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Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, St Petersburg, FL 33701, USA.


Lysogeny has been documented as a fundamental process occurring in natural marine communities of heterotrophic and autotrophic bacteria. Prophage induction has been observed to be prevalent during conditions of low host abundance, but factors controlling the process are poorly understood. A research cruise was undertaken to the Gulf of Mexico during July 2005 to explore environmental factors associated with lysogeny. Ambient physical and microbial parameters were measured and prophage induction experiments were performed in contrasting oligotrophic Gulf and eutrophic Mississippi plume areas. Three of 11 prophage induction experiments in heterotrophic bacteria (27%) demonstrated significant induction in response to Mitomycin C. In contrast, there was significant Synechococcus cyanophage induction in seven of nine experiments (77.8%). A strong negative correlation was observed between lysogeny and log-transformed activity measurements for both heterotrophic and autotrophic populations (r=-0.876, P=0.002 and r=-0.815, P=0.025, respectively), indicating that bacterioplankton with low host growth favor lysogeny. Multivariate statistical analyses indicated that ambient level of viral abundance and productivity were inversely related to heterotrophic prophage induction and both factors combined were most predictive of lysogeny (rho=0.899, P=0.001). For Synechococcus, low ambient cyanophage abundance was most predictive of lysogeny (rho=0.862, P=0.005). Abundance and productivity of heterotrophic bacteria was strongly inversely correlated with salinity, while Synechococcus was not. This indicated that heterotrophic bacterial populations were well adapted to the river plume environments, thus providing a possible explanation for differences in prevalence of lysogeny observed between the two populations.

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