Cyanobacteria are important and diverse members of aquatic systems both in marine and freshwater environments. The viruses that infect cyanobacteria are known as cyanophages and they can impact global carbon cycling and climate change. For example, when the freshwater lakes are enriched in nutrients and minerals, the dominant cyanobacteria will bloom, impacting the water quality. From a bioenergy perspective, freshwater cyanobacteria are increasingly being considered as a feedstock for biofuel production since their area yields exceed those of conventional crops by at least an order of magnitude. Additionally, many countries employ colony-forming freshwater cyanobacteria as a cost-effective wastewater treatment for removing organic matter, heavy metals and pathogenic microorganisms.
Compared to marine cyanophages, the role of cyanophages in freshwater systems is not as well-studied. This project aims to change that by sequencing the genomes of cyanophages from several European freshwater lakes. Early studies suggest these viruses can cross-infect hosts from phylogenetically distinct lineages, that they package genes involved in photosynthesis, and that their structural genes are markedly divergent from previously isolated marine cyanophages. The genomic information will enable researchers to better understand the viruses’ influences on various cyanobacterial populations in freshwater systems.
Principal Investigators: Li Deng, University of Arizona
Program: CSP 2010