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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Viruses interact with hosts that span distantly related microbial domains in dense hydrothermal mats


Many microbes in nature reside in dense, metabolically interdependent communities. We investigated the nature and extent of microbe-virus interactions in relation to microbial density and syntrophy by examining microbe-virus interactions in a biomass dense, deep-sea hydrothermal mat. Using metagenomic sequencing, we find numerous instances where phylogenetically distant (up to domain level) microbes encode CRISPR-based immunity against the same viruses in the mat. Evidence of viral interactions with hosts cross-cutting microbial domains is particularly striking between known syntrophic partners, for example those engaged in anaerobic methanotrophy. These patterns are corroborated by proximity-ligation-based (Hi-C) inference. Surveys of public datasets reveal additional viruses interacting with hosts across domains in diverse ecosystems known to harbour syntrophic biofilms. We propose that the entry of viral particles and/or DNA to non-primary host cells may be a common phenomenon in densely populated ecosystems, with eco-evolutionary implications for syntrophic microbes and CRISPR-mediated inter-population augmentation of resilience against viruses.

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