Rapid warming in the highly productive western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) region of the Southern Ocean has affected multiple trophic levels, yet viral influences on microbial processes and ecosystem function remain understudied in the Southern Ocean. Here we use cultivation-independent quantitative ecological and metagenomic assays, combined with new comparative bioinformatic techniques, to investigate double-stranded DNA viruses during the WAP spring-summer transition. This study demonstrates that (i) temperate viruses dominate this region, switching from lysogeny to lytic replication as bacterial production increases, and (ii) Southern Ocean viral assemblages are genetically distinct from lower-latitude assemblages, primarily driven by this temperate viral dominance. This new information suggests fundamentally different virus-host interactions in polar environments, where intense seasonal changes in bacterial production select for temperate viruses because of increased fitness imparted by the ability to switch replication strategies in response to resource availability. Further, temperate viral dominance may provide mechanisms (for example, bacterial mortality resulting from prophage induction) that help explain observed temporal delays between, and lower ratios of, bacterial and primary production in polar versus lower-latitude marine ecosystems. Together these results suggest that temperate virus-host interactions are critical to predicting changes in microbial dynamics brought on by warming in polar marine systems.
Marine viruses often contain host-derived metabolic genes (i.e., auxiliary metabolic genes; AMGs), which are hypothesized to increase viral replication by augmenting key steps in host metabolism. Currently described AMGs encompass a wide variety of metabolic functions, including amino acid and carbohydrate metabolism, energy production, and iron-sulfur cluster assembly and modification, and their community-wide gene content and abundance vary as a function of environmental conditions. Here, we describe different AMGs classes, their hypothesized role in redirecting host carbon metabolism, and their ecological importance. Focusing on metagenomic ocean surveys, we propose a new model where a suite of phage-encoded genes activate host pathways that respond rapidly to environmental cues, presumably resulting in rapid changes to host metabolic flux for phage production.
Microbes drive myriad ecosystem processes, and their viruses modulate microbial-driven processes through mortality, horizontal gene transfer, and metabolic reprogramming by viral-encoded auxiliary metabolic genes (AMGs). However, our knowledge of viral roles in the oceans is primarily limited to surface waters. Here we assess the depth distribution of protein clusters (PCs) in the first large-scale quantitative viral metagenomic data set that spans much of the pelagic depth continuum (the Pacific Ocean Virome; POV). This established 'core' (180 PCs; one-third new to science) and 'flexible' (423K PCs) community gene sets, including niche-defining genes in the latter (385 and 170 PCs are exclusive and core to the photic and aphotic zones, respectively). Taxonomic annotation suggested that tailed phages are ubiquitous, but not abundant (