New viruses found in the waters of the North Sea

Research team led by Nina Bartlau of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology

discovered a dynamic viral community inthe coastal island of Helgoland in the North Sea. It turned out that it can strongly affect the mortality of bacteria in the region and, therefore, the carbon cycle of the aquatic habitat. Also, scientists have discovered and isolated many new types of viruses.

On average, in every liter of North Sea waterthere are hundreds of thousands of tiny algae and a billion bacteria and ten billion viruses. They primarily infect bacteria and have a wide and varied impact on the environment. They kill infected cells and cause them to decay by altering gene expression or genetic material. The study now provides a fresh perspective on how these viruses live.

"Despite their importance, viruses are rarely the subject of marine research," says first author Nina Bartlau of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology.

In the course of their work, scientists discovered many new anda variety of phages in the North Sea. Phages are viruses that infect bacteria. Those that specialize in infecting flavobacteria are called flavophages.

Biologists have proven that viruses have a greatinfluence on the death of bacteria during spring flowering. The bacteria are responsible for breaking down microscopic algae debris. This releases the carbon dioxide absorbed by the algae from the atmosphere. In the future, scientists will study the link between viruses and the global carbon cycle.

Researchers have also cultivated much earlierunknown viruses in the laboratory. “We have identified ten new genera as well as ten new families,” says Bartlau. - Nine out of ten genera and four out of ten families did not exist in culture before. These new isolates will be useful for laboratory experiments to expand our knowledge of flavophages and the role of viruses in the ocean. ”

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