Project Information
Viral control of microbial communities in Antarctic lakes
Short Title:
Antarctic viruses
Start Date:
End Date:
Viruses are prevalent in aquatic environments where they reach up to five hundred million virus particles in a teaspoon of water. Ongoing discovery of viruses seems to confirm current understanding that all forms of life can host and be infected by viruses and that viruses are one of the largest reservoirs of unexplored genetic diversity on Earth. This study aims to better understand interactions between specific viruses and phytoplankton hosts and determine how these viruses may affect different algal groups present within lakes of the Vestfold Hills, Antarctica. These lakes (Ace, Organic and Deep)were originally derived from the ocean and contain a broad range of saline conditions with a similarly broad range of physicochemical characteristics resulting from isolation and low external influence for thousands of years. These natural laboratories allow examination of microbial processes and interactions that would be difficult to characterize elsewhere on earth. The project will generate extensive genomic information that will be made freely available. The project will also leverage the study of viruses and the genomic approaches employed to advance the training of undergraduate students and to engage and foster an understanding of Antarctic science and studies of microbes during a structured informal education program in Maine for the benefit of high school students. By establishing the dynamics and interactions of (primarily) specific dsDNA virus groups in different habitats with different redox conditions throughout seasonal and inter annual cycles the project will learn about the biotic and abiotic factors that influence microbial community dynamics. This project does not require fieldwork in Antarctica. Instead, the investigators will leverage already collected and archived samples from three lakes that have concurrent measures of physicochemical information. Approximately 2 terabyte of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) (including metagenomes, SSU rRNA amplicons and single virus genomes) will be generated from selected available samples through a Community Science Program (CSP) funded by the Joint Genome Institute. The investigators will employ bioinformatics to interrogate those sequence databases. In particular, they will focus on investigating the presence, phylogeny and co-occurrence of polintons, polinton-like viruses, virophages and large dsDNA phytoplankton viruses as well as of their putative eukaryotic microbial hosts. Bioinformatic analyses will be complemented with quantitative digital PCR and microbial association network analysis to detect specific virus-host interactions from co-occurrence spatial and temporal patterns. Multivariate analysis and network analyses will also be performed to investigate which abiotic factors most closely correlate with phytoplankton and virus abundances, temporal dynamics, and observed virus-phytoplankton associations within the three lakes. The results of this project will improve understanding of phytoplankton and their viruses as vital components of the carbon cycle in Antarctic, marine-derived aquatic environments, and likely in any other aquatic environment. Overall, this work will advance understanding of the genetic underpinnings of adaptations in unique Antarctic environments.
Person Role
Twining, Benjamin Investigator and contact
Martinez-Martinez, Joaquin Co-Investigator
Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Award # 1644155
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
0 (raw data)
  1. De Corte, D., J. M. Martínez, M. S. Cretoiu, Y. Takaki, T. Nunoura, E. Sintes, G. J. Herndl, and T. Yokokawa. 2019. Viral Communities in the Global Deep Ocean Conveyor Belt Assessed by Targeted Viromics. Frontiers in Microbiology 10. (doi:10.3389/fmicb.2019.01801)
  2. Martínez Martínez, J., F. Martinez-Hernandez, and M. Martinez-Garcia. 2020. Single-virus genomics and beyond. Nature Reviews Microbiology 18: 705-716. (doi:10.1038/s41579-020-00444-0)
  3. Hawco, N. J., Tagliabue, A., & Twining, B. S. (2022). Manganese Limitation of Phytoplankton Physiology and Productivity in the Southern Ocean. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 36(11). Portico. (doi:10.1029/2022gb007382)
Platforms and Instruments

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