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Vol. 72, No. 7, 2006, Pages: 4957–4963

Marine and Freshwater Cyanophages in a Laurentian Great Lake: Evidence from Infectivity Assays and Molecular Analyses of g20 Genes†

Steven W. Wilhelm,1* Matthew J. Carberry,1 Melanie L. Eldridge,1 Leo Poorvin,1
Matthew A. Saxton,1 and Martina A. Doblin2

Department of Microbiology, 1414 West Cumberland, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996.


While it is well established that viruses play an important role in the structure of marine microbial food webs, few studies have directly addressed their role in large lake systems. As part of an ongoing study of the microbial ecology of Lake Erie, we have examined the distribution and diversity of viruses in this system. One surprising result has been the pervasive distribution of cyanophages that infect the marine cyanobacterial isolate Synechococcus sp. strain WH7803. Viruses that lytically infect this cyanobacterium were identified throughout the western basin of Lake Erie, as well as in locations within the central and eastern basins. Analyses of the gene encoding the g20 viral capsid assembly protein (a conservative phylogenetic marker for the cyanophage) indicate that these viruses, as well as amplicons from natural populations and the ballast of commercial ships, are related to marine cyanophages but in some cases form a unique clade, leaving questions concerning the native hosts of these viruses. The results suggest that cyanophages may be as important in freshwater systems as they are known to be in marine systems.

Keywords: Synechococcus sp; cyanophages; marine microbial; g20 Genes;marine cyanophages;phylogenetic;taxonomy.

Corresponding author: Tel.: (865) 974-0665. Fax: (865) 974-4007

E-mail: wilhelm@utk.edu


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