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Viruses con bacteria into working for them
Date:1/26/2012

ing in the Pacific Ocean, which is richer in phosphorus, indicating that the variation is the result of evolutionary adaptation to the environment.

The new research indicates that the phage that infect these bacteria have evolved right along with their hosts.

"These viruses the most abundant class of viruses that infect Prochlorococcus have acquired genes for a metabolic pathway from their host cells," says Professor David Shub a biologist at the State University of New York at Albany. "These sorts of genes are usually tightly regulated in bacteria, that is they are turned into RNA and protein only when needed by the cell. However, genes of these kinds in viruses tend to be used in a strictly programmed manner, unresponsive to changes in the environment. Now Zeng and Chisholm have shown that these particular viral genes are regulated by the amount of phosphate in their environment, and also that they use the regulatory proteins already present in their host cells at the time of infection. The significance of this paper is the revelation of a very close evolutionary interrelationship between this particular bacterium and the viruses that seek to destroy it."

"We've come to think of this whole system as another bit of evidence for the incredible intimacy of the relationship of phage and host," says Chisholm, whose next steps are to explore the functions of all of the genes these marine phage have acquired from host cells to learn more about the selective pressures that are unique to the phage-host interactions in the open oceans. "Most of what we understand about phage and bacteria has come from model microorganisms used in biomedical research," says Chisholm. "The environment of the human body is dramatically different from that of the open oceans, and these oceanic phage have much to teach us about fundamental biological processes."


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Contact: Denise Brehm
brehm@mit.edu
617-253-8069
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Source:Eurekalert  

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