Uneven host cell growth causes lysogenic virus induction in the Baltic Sea

Nicole Köstner, Klaus Jürgens, Matthias Labrenz, Gerhard J Herndl, Christian Winter

In the Baltic Sea redoxcline, lysogenic viruses infecting prokaryotes have rarely been detected using the commonly used inducing agent mitomycin C. However, it is well known that not all viruses are induceable by mitomycin C and growing evidence suggests that changes in trophic conditions may trigger the induction of lysogenic viruses. We hypothesized that using antibiotics to simulate a strong change in trophic conditions for antibiotica-resistant cells due to reduced competition for resources might lead to the induction of lysogenic viruses into the lytic cycle within these cells. This hypothesis was tested by incubating prokaryotes obtained throughout the Baltic Sea redoxcline in seawater with substantially reduced numbers of viruses. We used a mixture of the protein synthesis-inhibiting antibiotics streptomycin and erythromycin to induce the desired changes in trophic conditions for resistant cells and at the same time ensuring that no progeny viruses were formed in sensitive cells. No inducible lysogenic viruses could be detected in incubations amended with mitomycin C. Yet, the presence of streptomycin and erythromycin increased virus-induced mortality of prokaryotes by 56-930% compared to controls, resulting in the induction of lysogenic viruses equivalent to 2-14% of in situ prokaryotic abundance. The results indicate the existence of a previously unrecognized induction mechanism for lysogenic viruses in the Baltic Sea redoxcline, as the mode of action distinctly differs between the used antibiotics (no virus production within affected cells) and mitomycin C (lysogenic viruses are produced within affected cells). Obtaining accurate experimental data on levels of lysogeny in prokaryotic host cells remains challenging, as relying on mitomycin C alone may severely underestimate lysogeny.

Functional and Evolutionary Ecology
External organisation(s)
Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
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