Nucleopolyhedrovirus Detection and Distribution in Terrestrial, Freshwater, and Marine Habitats of Appledore Island, Gulf of Maine
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Viruses in aquatic ecosystems comprise those produced by both autochthonous and allochthonous host taxa. However, there is little information on the diversity and abundance of viruses of allochthonous origin, particularly from non-anthropogenic sources, in freshwater and marine ecosystems. We investigated the presence of nucleopolyhedroviruses (NPV) (Baculovirus), which commonly infect terrestrial lepidopteran taxa, across the landscape of Appledore Island, Gulf of Maine. PCR and qPCR primers were developed around a 294-bp fragment of the polyhedrin (polH) gene, which is the major constituent protein of NPV multivirion polyhedral occlusion bodies. polH was successfully amplified from several aquatic habitats, and recovered polH sequences were most similar to known lepidopteran NPV. Using quantitative PCR designed around a cluster of detected sequences, we detected polH in Appledore Island soils, supratidal freshwater ponds, nearshore sediments, near- and offshore plankton, and in floatsam. This diverse set of locations suggests that NPVs are widely dispersed along the terrestrial—marine continuum and that free polyhedra may be washed into ponds and eventually to sea. The putative hosts of detected NPVs were webworms (Hyphantria sp.) which form dense nests in late summer on the dominant Appledore Island vegetation (Prunus virginiana). Our data indicate that viruses of terrestrial origin (i.e., allochthonous viruses) may be dispersed widely in coastal marine habitats. The dispersal of NPV polH and detection within offshore net plankton (>64 μm) demonstrates that terrestrial viruses may interact with larger particles and plankton of coastal marine ecosystem, which further suggests that viral genomic information may be transported between biomes.
The authors thank W. Bemis and the staff of the Shoals Marine Lab, Appledore Island A. Hajek, N. Felice, N. Scalfone, J. Means, E. Madsen, and J. Casey for field assistance and helpful conversations on the topic. This work was supported by NSF Grants DEB-1028898 and OCE-1049670, New York State Grant NYS-189489, and the Cornell Biogeochemistry and Biocomplexity Initiative.
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