Viral Metagenomic Content Reflects Seawater Ecological Quality in the Coastal Zone

Anastasia Tsiola, Grégoire Michoud, Stilianos Fodelianakis, Ioannis Karakassis, Georgios Kotoulas, Alexandra Pavlidou, Christina Pavloudi, Paraskevi Pitta, Nomiki Simbour, Daniele Daffonchio, Manolis Tsapakis
Viruses 12(8), 806, (2020)


Community composition, Pollution, Coastal zone, Metagenomics, Auxiliary metabolic genes


Viruses interfere with their host’s metabolism through the expression of auxiliary metabolic genes (AMGs) that, until now, are mostly studied under large physicochemical gradients. Here, we focus on coastal marine ecosystems and we sequence the viral metagenome (virome) of samples with discrete levels of human-driven disturbances. We aim to describe the relevance of viromics with respect to ecological quality status, defined by the classic seawater trophic index (TRIX). Neither viral (family level) nor bacterial (family level, based on 16S rRNA sequencing) community structure correlated with TRIX. AMGs involved in the Calvin and tricarboxylic acid cycles were found at stations with poor ecological quality, supporting viral lysis by modifying the host’s energy supply. AMGs involved in “non-traditional” energy-production pathways (3HP, sulfur oxidation) were found irrespective of ecological quality, highlighting the importance of recognizing the prevalent metabolic paths and their intermediate byproducts. Various AMGs explained the variability between stations with poor vs. good ecological quality. Our study confirms the pivotal role of the virome content in ecosystem functioning, acting as a “pool” of available functions that may be transferred to the hosts. Further, it suggests that AMGs could be used as an ultra-sensitive metric of energy-production pathways with relevance in the vulnerable coastal zone and its ecological quality.


DOI: 10.3390/v12080806


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