Viruses manipulate the marine environment.

Department of Biology, San Diego State University, San Diego, California 92182, USA.
Nature (Impact Factor: 42.35). 06/2009; 459(7244):207-12. DOI: 10.1038/nature08060
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Marine viruses affect Bacteria, Archaea and eukaryotic organisms and are major components of the marine food web. Most studies have focused on their role as predators and parasites, but many of the interactions between marine viruses and their hosts are much more complicated. A series of recent studies has shown that viruses have the ability to manipulate the life histories and evolution of their hosts in remarkable ways, challenging our understanding of this almost invisible world.

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    ABSTRACT: In the evolutionary arms race between microbes, their parasites, and their neighbours, the capacity for rapid protein diversification is a potent weapon. Diversity-generating retroelements (DGRs) use mutagenic reverse transcription and retrohoming to generate myriad variants of a target gene. Originally discovered in pathogens, these retroelements have been identified in bacteria and their viruses, but never in archaea. Here we report the discovery of intact DGRs in two distinct intraterrestrial archaeal systems: a novel virus that appears to infect archaea in the marine subsurface, and, separately, two uncultivated nanoarchaea from the terrestrial subsurface. The viral DGR system targets putative tail fibre ligand-binding domains, potentially generating >1018 protein variants. The two single-cell nanoarchaeal genomes each possess ≥4 distinct DGRs. Against an expected background of low genome-wide mutation rates, these results demonstrate a previously unsuspected potential for rapid, targeted sequence diversification in intraterrestrial archaea and their viruses.
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