Lysogeny and virus-induced mortality of bacterioplankton in surface, deep, and anoxic marine waters

Weinbauer, Markus G., Ingrid Brettar, Manfred G. Höfle

Limnol. Oceanogr., 48(4), 2003, 1457-1465 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2003.48.4.1457

ABSTRACT: Lysogeny (bacteria containing inducible prophages) and lytic viral infection (bacteria in a lytic stage of infection) were investigated at the community level in contrasting marine environments such as estuarine versus offshore waters, surface versus deep waters, and oxic versus anoxic waters in the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas. The frequency of lysogenic cells (FLC) in bacterioplankton communities ranged from not detectable to 84% as estimated by prophage induction due to mitomycin C, and highest values were typically found in deep waters (800-2,000 m). Transmission electron microscopy based estimates of virus-induced mortality of bacterioplankton (VMB) ranged from a few percent to 71%, and highest values were found in anoxic waters of the Baltic Sea. FLC and the frequency of infected cells (FIC) were related in form of a negative power function indicating that environments exist where one of the two viral life strategies prevails. Across all investigated environments, FLC was negatively related to bacterial abundance and production, whereas FIC showed a positive relationship with viral and bacterial parameters. FIC was higher and FLC was lower in moderately productive estuarine and offshore surface waters than in less productive mesopelagic and deep waters. Thus, lysogeny seems to be a survival strategy at low host abundance and activity, whereas high host abundance and activity seems to favor the lytic life cycle. The key process for the prevalence of lytic infection compared to prophage replication at high host abundance could be competition due to outnumbering. Between 11% and 88% (average, 35%) of the bacteria contained a functional (lytic or lysogenic) viral genome.

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