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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ecology of inorganic sulfur auxiliary metabolism in widespread bacteriophages.

  • Author(s): Kieft, Kristopher;
  • Zhou, Zhichao;
  • Anderson, Rika E;
  • Buchan, Alison;
  • Campbell, Barbara J;
  • Hallam, Steven J;
  • Hess, Matthias;
  • Sullivan, Matthew B;
  • Walsh, David A;
  • Roux, Simon;
  • Anantharaman, Karthik
  • et al.

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Microbial sulfur metabolism contributes to biogeochemical cycling on global scales. Sulfur metabolizing microbes are infected by phages that can encode auxiliary metabolic genes (AMGs) to alter sulfur metabolism within host cells but remain poorly characterized. Here we identified 191 phages derived from twelve environments that encoded 227 AMGs for oxidation of sulfur and thiosulfate (dsrA, dsrC/tusE, soxC, soxD and soxYZ). Evidence for retention of AMGs during niche-differentiation of diverse phage populations provided evidence that auxiliary metabolism imparts measurable fitness benefits to phages with ramifications for ecosystem biogeochemistry. Gene abundance and expression profiles of AMGs suggested significant contributions by phages to sulfur and thiosulfate oxidation in freshwater lakes and oceans, and a sensitive response to changing sulfur concentrations in hydrothermal environments. Overall, our study provides fundamental insights on the distribution, diversity, and ecology of phage auxiliary metabolism associated with sulfur and reinforces the necessity of incorporating viral contributions into biogeochemical configurations.

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