Characterization of Lysogens in Bacterioplankton Assemblages of the Southern California Borderland
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Viruses cause significant mortality of marine microorganisms; however, their role in shaping the composition of microbial assemblages has not been fully elucidated. Because viruses may form lysogenic relationships with their hosts, temperate viruses may influence bacterial assemblage structures through direct lysis of hosts when induced by environmental stimuli or by homoimmunity (i.e., immunity to closely related viruses). We investigated the components of bacterioplankton assemblages that bore prophage using the lysogenic induction agent mitomycin C. Seawater was collected at two locations (the San Pedro Ocean Time Series Station and in the Santa Barbara Channel) in the Southern California Borderland and amended with mitomycin C. After 24-h incubation, the community structure of bacterioplankton was compared with unamended controls using automated rRNA intergenic spacer analysis. The addition of mitomycin C to seawater had effects on the community structure of bacterioplankton, stimulating detectable overall diversity and richness of fingerprints and causing the assemblages within incubations to become different to control assemblages. Most negatively impacted operational taxonomic units (OTU) in mitomycin C-amended incubations individually comprised a large fraction of total amplified DNA in initial seawater (5.3–23.3% of amplified DNA fluorescence) fingerprints, and data suggest that these include organisms putatively classified as members of the γ-Proteobacteria, SAR11 cluster, and Synechococcus groups. The stimulation of assemblage richness by induction of lysogens, and the reduction in the contribution to total DNA of common OTU (and concomitant increase in rare OTU), suggests that temperate phage have the potential to strongly influence the diversity of bacterioplankton assemblages. Because lysogenic OTU may also be resistant to closely related lytic (i.e., free-living) viruses, the impact of lytic virioplankton on assemblages may only be pronounced transiently or when conditions causing lysogenic induction arise.