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Microb Ecol. 2009 Feb;57(2):286-94. doi: 10.1007/s00248-008-9429-0. Epub 2008 Aug 1.

Importance of viral lysis and dissolved DNA for bacterioplankton activity in a P-limited estuary, Northern Baltic Sea.

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Department of Natural Sciences, Kalmar University, 39182, Kalmar, Sweden.


Through lysis of bacterioplankton cells, viruses mediate an important, but poorly understood, pathway of carbon and nutrients from the particulate to the dissolved form. Via this activity, nutrient-rich cell lysates may become available to noninfected cells and support significant growth. However, the nutritional value of lysates for noninfected bacteria presumably depends on the prevailing nutrient limitation. In the present study, we examined dynamics of dissolved DNA (D-DNA) and viruses along a transect in the phosphorus (P)-limited Ore Estuary, northern Baltic Sea. We found that viruses were an important mortality factor for bacterioplankton and that their activity mediated a significant recycling of carbon and especially of P. Uptake of dissolved DNA accounted for up to 70% of the bacterioplankton P demand, and about a quarter of the D-DNA pool was supplied through viral lysis of bacterial cells. Generally, the importance of viral lysates and uptake of D-DNA was highest at the estuarine and offshore stations and was positively correlated with P limitation measured as alkaline phosphatase activity. Our results highlight the importance of viral activity for the internal recycling of principal nutrients and pinpoints D-DNA as a particularly relevant compound in microbial P dynamics.

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