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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2010 Nov;76(21):7194-201. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01161-10. Epub 2010 Sep 10.

Virus-bacterium coupling driven by both turbidity and hydrodynamics in an Amazonian floodplain lake.

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Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology, Department of Biology, Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais, Brazil, CEP 36036-900.


The importance of viruses in aquatic ecosystem functioning has been widely described. However, few studies have examined tropical aquatic ecosystems. Here, we evaluated for the first time viruses and their relationship with other planktonic communities in an Amazonian freshwater ecosystem. Coupling between viruses and bacteria was studied, focusing both on hydrologic dynamics and anthropogenic forced turbidity in the system (Lake Batata). Samples were taken during four hydrologic seasons at both natural and impacted sites to count virus-like particles (VLP) and bacteria. In parallel, virus-infected bacteria were identified and quantified by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Viral abundance ranged from 0.5 × 10⁷ ± 0.2 × 10⁷ VLP ml⁻¹ (high-water season, impacted site) to 1.7 × 10⁷ ± 0.4 × 10⁷ VLP ml⁻¹ (low-water season, natural site). These data were strongly correlated with the bacterial abundance (r² = 0.84; P < 0.05), which ranged from 1.0 × 10⁶ ± 0.5 × 10⁶ cells ml⁻¹ (high water, impacted site) to 3.4 × 10⁶ ± 0.7 × 10⁶ cells ml⁻¹ (low water, natural site). Moreover, the viral abundance was weakly correlated with chlorophyll a, suggesting that most viruses were bacteriophages. TEM quantitative analyses revealed that the frequency of visibly infected cells was 20%, with 10 ± 3 phages per cell section. In general, we found a low virus-bacterium ratio (<7). Both the close coupling between the viral and bacterial abundances and the low virus-bacterium ratio suggest that viral abundance tends to be driven by the reduction of hosts for viral infection. Our results demonstrate that viruses are controlled by biological substrates, whereas in addition to grazing, bacteria are regulated by physical processes caused by turbidity, which affect underwater light distribution and dissolved organic carbon availability.

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