mBio 13(3) , e00651-22 ( 2022)
Although we know the generally appreciated significant roles of microbes in sea ice and polar waters, detailed studies of virus-host systems from such environments have been so far limited by only a few available isolates. Here, we investigated infectivity under various conditions, infection cycles, and genetic diversity of the following Antarctic sea ice bacteriophages: Paraglaciecola Antarctic GD virus 1 (PANV1), Paraglaciecola Antarctic JLT virus 2 (PANV2), Octadecabacter Antarctic BD virus 1 (OANV1), and Octadecabacter Antarctic DB virus 2 (OANV2). The phages infect common sea ice bacteria belonging to the genera Paraglaciecola or Octadecabacter. Although the phages are marine and cold-active, replicating at 0°C to 5°C, they all survived temporal incubations at ≥30°C and remained infectious without any salts or supplemented only with magnesium, suggesting a robust virion assembly maintaining integrity under a wide range of conditions. Host recognition in the cold proved to be effective, and the release of progeny viruses occurred as a result of cell lysis. The analysis of viral genome sequences showed that nearly one-half of the gene products of each virus are unique, highlighting that sea ice harbors unexplored virus diversity. Based on predicted genes typical for tailed double-stranded DNA phages, we suggest placing the four studied viruses in the class Caudoviricetes. Searching against viral sequences from metagenomic assemblies, we revealed that related viruses are not restricted to Antarctica but are also found in distant marine environments. IMPORTANCE Very little is known about sea ice microbes despite the significant role played by sea ice in the global oceans as well as microbial input into biogeochemical cycling. Studies on the sea ice viruses have been typically limited to -omics-based approaches and microscopic examinations of sea ice samples. To date, only four cultivable viruses have been isolated from Antarctic sea ice. Our study of these unique isolates advances the understanding of the genetic diversity of viruses in sea ice environments, their interactions with host microbes, and possible links to other biomes. Such information contributes to more accurate future sea ice biogeochemical models.