Identification of freshwater Phycodnaviridae and their potential phytoplankton hosts, using DNA pol sequence fragments and a genetic-distance analysis.Appl Environ Microbiol. 2009 Feb; 75(4):991-7.AE
Viruses that infect phytoplankton are an important component of aquatic ecosystems, yet in lakes they remain largely unstudied. In order to investigate viruses (Phycodnaviridae) infecting eukaryotic phytoplankton in lakes and to estimate the number of potential host species, samples were collected from four lakes at the Experimental Lakes Area in Ontario, Canada, during the ice-free period (mid-May to mid-October) of 2004. From each lake, Phycodnaviridae DNA polymerase (pol) gene fragments were amplified using algal-virus-specific primers and separated by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis; 20 bands were extracted from the gels and sequenced. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that freshwater environmental phycodnavirus sequences belong to distinct phylogenetic groups. An analysis of the genetic distances "within" and "between" monophyletic groups of phycodnavirus isolates indicated that DNA pol sequences that differed by more than 7% at the inferred amino acid level were from viruses that infect different host species. Application of this threshold to phylogenies of environmental sequences indicated that the DNA pol sequences from these lakes came from viruses that infect at least nine different phytoplankton species. A multivariate statistical analysis suggested that potential freshwater hosts included Mallomonas sp., Monoraphidium sp., and Cyclotella sp. This approach should help to unravel the relationships between viruses in the environment and the phytoplankton hosts they infect.