A hydrocarbon-contaminated aquifer reveals a Piggyback-the-Persistent viral strategy

James S. Paterson, Renee J. Smith, Jody C. McKerral, Lisa M. Dann, Elise Launer, Peter Goonan, Tavis Kleinig, Jed A. Fuhrman, James G. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Subsurface environments hold the largest reservoir of microbes in the biosphere. They play essential roles in transforming nutrients, degrading contaminants and recycling organic matter. Here, we propose a previously unrecognised fundamental microbial process that influences aquifer bioremediation dynamics and that applies to all microbial communities. In contrast to previous models, our proposed Piggyback-the-Persistent (PtP) mechanism occurs when viruses become more dominated by those exhibiting temperate rather than lytic lifestyles driven by persistent chemicals (in our case chlorinated-hydrocarbon pollutants) that provide long-term carbon sources and that refocus the aquifer carbon cycle, thus altering the microbial community. In this ultra-oligotrophic system, the virus:microbial ratio (VMR) ranges from below the detection limit of 0.0001 to 0.6, well below the common aquatic range of 3-10. Shortest-average-path network analysis revealed VMR and trichlorethene (TCE) as nodes through which ecosystem information and biomass most efficiently pass. Novel network rearrangement revealed a hierarchy of Kill-the-Winner (KtW), Piggyback-the-Winner (PtW) and PtP nodes. We propose that KtW, PtW and PtP occur simultaneously as competing strategies, with their relative importance depending on conditions at a particular time and location with unusual nutrient sources, such as TCE, appearing to contribute to a shift in this balance between viral mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberfiz116
Number of pages10
JournalFEMS microbiology ecology
Volume95
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019

Keywords

  • bacteria
  • microbial ecology
  • pollution microbiology
  • viruses

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