Intragenus competition between coccolithoviruses: An insight on how a select few can come to dominate many

Jozef I. Nissimov, Johnathan A. Napier, Michael J. Allen, Susan A. Kimmance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Viruses are a major cause of coccolithophore bloom demise in both temperate and sub-temperate oceanic regions. Most infection studies on coccolithoviruses have been conducted with a single virus strain, and the effect of intragenus competition by closely related coccolithoviruses has been ignored. Here we conducted combined infection experiments, infecting Emiliania huxleyiCCMP 2090 with two coccolithoviruses: EhV-86 and EhV-207 both simultaneously and independently. EhV-207 displayed a shorter lytic cycle and increased production potential than EhV-86 and was remarkably superior under competitive conditions. Although the viruses displayed identical adsorption kinetics in the first 2h post infection, EhV-207 gained a numerical advantage as early as 8h post infection. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) revealed that when infecting in combination, EhV-207 was not affected by the presence of EhV-86, whereas EhV-86 was quickly out-competed, and a significant reduction in free and cell-associated EhV-86 was seen as early as 2 days after the initial infection. The observation of such clear phenotypic differences between genetically distinct, yet similar, coccolithovirus strains, by flow cytometry and quantitative real-time PCR allowed tentative links to the burgeoning genomic, transcriptomic and metabolic data to be made and the factors driving their selection, in particular to the de novo coccolithovirus-encoded sphingolipid biosynthesis pathway. This work illustrates that, even within a family, not all viruses are created equally, and the potential exists for relatively small genetic changes to infer disproportionately large competitive advantages for one coccolithovirus over another, ultimately leading to a few viruses dominating the many.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-145
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number1
Early online date25 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2016


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