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Nat Microbiol. 2017 Oct;2(10):1350-1357. doi: 10.1038/s41564-017-0002-9. Epub 2017 Aug 7.

A myovirus encoding both photosystem I and II proteins enhances cyclic electron flow in infected Prochlorococcus cells.

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Faculty of Biology, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, 32000, Israel.
Department of Molecular Biology and Ecology of Plants, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, 69978, Israel.
Institut de Biologie Physico-Chimique, UMR 7141 CNRS and Université Pierre et Marie Curie, 13 rue Pierre et Marie Curie, 75005, Paris, France.
Smoler Proteomics Center, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, 32000, Israel.
Migal Galilee Research Institute, Kiryat Shmona, 11016, Israel.
Tel Hai College, Upper Galilee, 12210, Israel.
Department of Marine Biology and Oceanography, Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM), CSIC, 08003, Barcelona, Spain.
Microbial and Environmental Genomics, J. Craig Venter Institute, La Jolla, CA, 92037, USA.
Department of Biology, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, 92182, USA.
Faculty of Biology, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, 32000, Israel.
Faculty of Biology, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, 32000, Israel.


Cyanobacteria are important contributors to primary production in the open oceans. Over the past decade, various photosynthesis-related genes have been found in viruses that infect cyanobacteria (cyanophages). Although photosystem II (PSII) genes are common in both cultured cyanophages and environmental samples 1-4 , viral photosystem I (vPSI) genes have so far only been detected in environmental samples 5,6 . Here, we have used a targeted strategy to isolate a cyanophage from the tropical Pacific Ocean that carries a PSI gene cassette with seven distinct PSI genes (psaJF, C, A, B, K, E, D) as well as two PSII genes (psbA, D). This cyanophage, P-TIM68, belongs to the T4-like myoviruses, has a prolate capsid, a long contractile tail and infects Prochlorococcus sp. strain MIT9515. Phage photosynthesis genes from both photosystems are expressed during infection, and the resultant proteins are incorporated into membranes of the infected host. Moreover, photosynthetic capacity in the cell is maintained throughout the infection cycle with enhancement of cyclic electron flow around PSI. Analysis of metagenomic data from the Tara Oceans expedition 7 shows that phages carrying PSI gene cassettes are abundant in the tropical Pacific Ocean, composing up to 28% of T4-like cyanomyophages. They are also present in the tropical Indian and Atlantic Oceans. P-TIM68 populations, specifically, compose on average 22% of the PSI-gene-cassette carrying phages. Our results suggest that cyanophages carrying PSI and PSII genes are likely to maintain and even manipulate photosynthesis during infection of their Prochlorococcus hosts in the tropical oceans.

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