• algal virus;
  • Chaetoceros;
  • diatom;
  • viral ecology;
  • virus

Numerous microalgal species are infected by viruses that have the potential to control phytoplankton dynamics by reducing host populations, preventing bloom formation, or causing the collapse of blooms. Here we describe a virus infecting the diatom Chaetoceros cf. wighamii Brightw. from the Chesapeake Bay. To characterize the morphology and lytic cycle of this virus, we conducted a time-course experiment, sampling every 4 h over 72 h following viral inoculation. In vivo fluorescence began to decline 16 h after inoculation and was reduced to <19% of control cultures by the end of experiment. TEM confirmed infection within the first 8 h of inoculation, as indicated by the presence of virus-like particles (VLP) in the nuclei. VLP were present in two different arrangements: rod-like structures that appeared in cross-section as paracrystalline arrays of hexagonal-shaped profiles measuring 12 ± 2 nm in diameter and uniformly electron-dense hexagonal-shaped particles measuring ∼ 22–28 nm in diameter. Nuclei containing paracrystalline arrays were most prevalent early in the infection cycle, while cells containing VLP increased and then declined toward the end of the cycle. The proportion of nuclei containing both paracrystalline arrays and VLP remained relatively constant. This pattern suggests that rod-like paracrystalline arrays fragmented to produce icosahedral VLP. C. cf. wighamii nuclear inclusion virus (CwNIV) is characterized by a high burst size (averaged 26,400 viruses per infected cell) and fast generation time that could have ecological implications on C. cf. wighamii population control.