Genetic richness of vibriophages isolated in a coastal environment


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The purpose of this study was to characterize Vibrio parahaemolyticus viruses (VpVs) isolated from different environments within and adjacent to the Strait of Georgia, and to examine the relative influences of distance and environment on host-range and genetic richness. Nearly all seawater enrichment cultures (29/31) generated isolates, implying that VpVs were widespread in the virioplankton, yet at low abundances (< 1 l−1). Viruses were not detected in sediments (n = 99). Fourteen of the 16 viruses characterized were siphoviruses, with genome sizes ranging from ∼45–106 kb, and half were capable of infecting other Vibrio species. The VpVs infected bacteria isolated from oysters and sediments fairly well (55% and 46% of the host-virus combinations, respectively), but were unable to infect many of the bacteria isolated from the water column (< 13% of 112 combinations). When compared with VpVs from oysters, it was clear that the major determinant of phenotypic (host-range) and genetic richness (by the DP-RAPD assay) was not geography, but the source environment from which the VpVs originated. Therefore, the VpV population within the Strait of Georgia is a highly diverse mixture of phenotypes and genotypes.