World’s largest marine virus is ‘major player in ocean ecosystems’

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

WASHINGTON - Researchers at UBC have identified the world’s largest marine virus that infects an ecologically important and widespread planktonic predator.

Cafeteria roenbergensis virus boasts genetic complexity that blurs the distinction between ‘non-living’ and ‘living’ entities.

“Much of the genetic machinery we found in this virus you would only expect to find in living, cellular organisms, including many genes required to produce DNA, RNA, proteins and sugars,” said UBC professor Curtis Suttle.

The pathogen’s genome contains approximately 730,000 base pairs making it the largest known marine virus, and the second largest known virus, after the fresh water-borne Acanthamoeba polyphaga mimivirus, which weighs in at 1.2 million base pairs.

It infects a major marine zooplankter, which occupies a key position in marine food webs.Even though predation by these marine plankton grazers is a major pathway of carbon transfer and nutrient recycling in marine and freshwater systems, we know next to nothing about the role viruses play in this system,” noted Curtis.

“There’s little doubt that this virus is just one representative from a major group of largely unknown but ecologically important marine giant viruses.”

The findings are reported in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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