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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Virus-associated organosulfur metabolism in human and environmental systems


Viruses influence the fate of nutrients and human health by killing microorganisms and altering metabolic processes. Organosulfur metabolism and biologically derived hydrogen sulfide play dynamic roles in manifestation of diseases, infrastructure degradation, and essential biological processes. Although microbial organosulfur metabolism is well studied, the role of viruses in organosulfur metabolism is unknown. Here, we report the discovery of 39 gene families involved in organosulfur metabolism encoded by 3,749 viruses from diverse ecosystems, including human microbiomes. The viruses infect organisms from all three domains of life. Six gene families encode for enzymes that degrade organosulfur compounds into sulfide, whereas others manipulate organosulfur compounds and may influence sulfide production. We show that viral metabolic genes encode key enzymatic domains, are translated into protein, and are maintained after recombination, and sulfide provides a fitness advantage to viruses. Our results reveal viruses as drivers of organosulfur metabolism with important implications for human and environmental health.

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