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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2007 Dec;73(23):7629-41. Epub 2007 Oct 5.

Metagenomic characterization of Chesapeake Bay virioplankton.

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College of Marine and Earth Studies, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware 19711, USA.


Viruses are ubiquitous and abundant throughout the biosphere. In marine systems, virus-mediated processes can have significant impacts on microbial diversity and on global biogeocehmical cycling. However, viral genetic diversity remains poorly characterized. To address this shortcoming, a metagenomic library was constructed from Chesapeake Bay virioplankton. The resulting sequences constitute the largest collection of long-read double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) viral metagenome data reported to date. BLAST homology comparisons showed that Chesapeake Bay virioplankton contained a high proportion of unknown (homologous only to environmental sequences) and novel (no significant homolog) sequences. This analysis suggests that dsDNA viruses are likely one of the largest reservoirs of unknown genetic diversity in the biosphere. The taxonomic origin of BLAST homologs to viral library sequences agreed well with reported abundances of cooccurring bacterial subphyla within the estuary and indicated that cyanophages were abundant. However, the low proportion of Siphophage homologs contradicts a previous assertion that this family comprises most bacteriophage diversity. Identification and analyses of cyanobacterial homologs of the psbA gene illustrated the value of metagenomic studies of virioplankton. The phylogeny of inferred PsbA protein sequences suggested that Chesapeake Bay cyanophage strains are endemic in that environment. The ratio of psbA homologous sequences to total cyanophage sequences in the metagenome indicated that the psbA gene may be nearly universal in Chesapeake Bay cyanophage genomes. Furthermore, the low frequency of psbD homologs in the library supports the prediction that Chesapeake Bay cyanophage populations are dominated by Podoviridae.

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