Viruses affect picocyanobacterial abundance and biogeography in the North Pacific Ocean

Carlson, Michael. C. G.; Ribalet, François; Maidanik, Ilia; Durham, Bryndan P.; Hulata, Yotam; Ferrón, Sara; Weissenbach, Julia; Shamir, Nitzan; Goldin, Svetlana; Baran, Nava; Cael, B.B. ORCID:; Karl, David M.; White, Angelicque E.; Armbrust, E. Virginia; Lindell, Debbie. 2022 Viruses affect picocyanobacterial abundance and biogeography in the North Pacific Ocean. Nature Microbiology, 7 (4). 570-580.

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The photosynthetic picocyanobacteria Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus are models for dissecting how ecological niches are defined by environmental conditions, but how interactions with bacteriophages affect picocyanobacterial biogeography in open ocean biomes has rarely been assessed. We applied single-virus and single-cell infection approaches to quantify cyanophage abundance and infected picocyanobacteria in 87 surface water samples from five transects that traversed approximately 2,200 km in the North Pacific Ocean on three cruises, with a duration of 2–4 weeks, between 2015 and 2017. We detected a 550-km-wide hotspot of cyanophages and virus-infected picocyanobacteria in the transition zone between the North Pacific Subtropical and Subpolar gyres that was present in each transect. Notably, the hotspot occurred at a consistent temperature and displayed distinct cyanophage-lineage composition on all transects. On two of these transects, the levels of infection in the hotspot were estimated to be sufficient to substantially limit the geographical range of Prochlorococcus. Coincident with the detection of high levels of virally infected picocyanobacteria, we measured an increase of 10–100-fold in the Synechococcus populations in samples that are usually dominated by Prochlorococcus. We developed a multiple regression model of cyanophages, temperature and chlorophyll concentrations that inferred that the hotspot extended across the North Pacific Ocean, creating a biological boundary between gyres, with the potential to release organic matter comparable to that of the sevenfold-larger North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Our results highlight the probable impact of viruses on large-scale phytoplankton biogeography and biogeochemistry in distinct regions of the oceans.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: NOC Programmes > Ocean BioGeosciences
ISSN: 2058-5276
Date made live: 20 Jul 2022 12:56 +0 (UTC)

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