THE EFFECT OF PHOSPHATE STATUS ON THE KINETICS OF CYANOPHAGE INFECTION IN THE OCEANIC CYANOBACTERIUM SYNECHOCOCCUS SP. WH78031

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  • 1

    Received 30 August 1995. Accepted 25 March 1996.

  • This study was funded partly by a Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) CASE award in conjunction with Plymouth Marine Laboratory, United Kingdom, and partly by PRIME (Plankton Reactivity in the Marine Environment), a program funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council of the United Kingdom. This is PRIME contribution number 7.

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ABSTRACT

Phycoerythrin-containing Synechococcus species are considered to be major primary producers in nutrient-limited gyres of subtropical and tropical oceanic provinces, and the cyanophages that infect them are thought to influence marine biogeochemical cycles. This study begins an examination of the effects of nutrient limitation on the dynamics of cyanophage/Synechococcus interactions in oligotrophic environments by analyzing the infection kinetics of cyanophage strain S-PM2 (Cyanomyoviridae isolated from coastal water off Plymouth, UK) propagated on Synechococcus sp. WH7803 grown in either phosphate-deplete or phosphate-replete conditions. When the growth of Synechococcus sp. WH7803 in phosphate-deplete medium was followed after infection with cyanophage, an 18-h delay in cell lysis was observed when compared to a phosphate-replete control. Synechococcus sp. WH7803 cultures grown at two different rates (in the same nutritional conditions) both lysed 24 h postinfection, ruling out growth rate itself as a factor in the delay of cell lysis. One-step growth kinetics of S-PM2 propagated on host Synechococcus sp. WH7803, grown in phosphate-deplete and-replete media, revealed an apparent 80% decrease in burst size in phosphate-deplete growth conditions, but phage adsorption kinetics ofS-PM2 under these conditions showed no differences. These results suggested that the cyanophages established lysogeny in response to phosphate-deplete growth of host cells. This suggestion was supported by comparison of the proportion of infected cells that lysed under phosphate-replete and-deplete conditions, which revealed that only 9.3% of phosphate-deplete infected cells lysed in contrast to 100% of infected phosphate-replete cells. Further studies with two independent cyanophage strains also revealed that only approximately 10% of infected phosphate-deplete host cells released progeny cyanophages. These data strongly support the concept that the phosphate status of the Synechococcus cell will have a profound effect on the eventual outcome of phage-host interactions and will therefore exert a similarly extensive effect on the dynamics of carbon flow in the marine environment.

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