Biochemical diversity of glycosphingolipid biosynthesis as a driver of Coccolithovirus competitive ecology

Jozef I. Nissimov, David Talmy, Liti Haramaty, Helen F. Fredricks, Ehud Zelzion, Ben Knowles, A. Murat Eren, Rebecca Vandzura, Christien P. Laber, Brittany M. Schieler, Christopher T. Johns, Kuldeep D. More, Marco J.L. Coolen, Michael J. Follows, Debashish Bhattacharya, Benjamin A.S. Van Mooy, Kay D. Bidle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
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Coccolithoviruses (EhVs) are large, double-stranded DNA-containing viruses that infect the single-celled, marine coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi. Given the cosmopolitan nature and global importance of E. huxleyi as a bloom-forming, calcifying, photoautotroph, E. huxleyi–EhV interactions play a key role in oceanic carbon biogeochemistry. Virally-encoded glycosphingolipids (vGSLs) are virulence factors that are produced by the activity of virus-encoded serine palmitoyltransferase (SPT). Here, we characterize the dynamics, diversity and catalytic production of vGSLs in an array of EhV strains in relation to their SPT sequence composition and explore the hypothesis that they are a determinant of infectivity and host demise. vGSL production and diversity was positively correlated with increased virulence, virus replication rate and lytic infection dynamics in laboratory experiments, but they do not explain the success of less-virulent EhVs in natural EhV communities. The majority of EhV-derived SPT amplicon sequences associated with infected cells in the North Atlantic derived from slower infecting, less virulent EhVs. Our lab-, field- and mathematical model-based data and simulations support ecological scenarios whereby slow-infecting, less-virulent EhVs successfully compete in North Atlantic populations of E. huxleyi, through either the preferential removal of fast-infecting, virulent EhVs during active infection or by having access to a broader host range.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2182-2197
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number6
Early online date20 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2019


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