Bacteriophage in the Environment
Markus G. Weinbauer, Martin Agis, Osana Bonilla-Findji, Andrea Malits and Christian Winter
from: Bacteriophage: Genetics and Molecular Biology (Edited by: Stephen Mc Grath and Douwe van Sinderen). Caister Academic Press, U.K. (2007)
One and a half decades ago, it was detected that phages are much more abundant in the water column of freshwater and marine habitats than previously thought and that they can cause significant mortality of bacterioplankton. Methods in phage community ecology have been developed to assess phage-induced mortality of bacterioplankton and its role for food web process and biogeochemical cycles, to genetically fingerprint phage communities or populations and estimate viral biodiversity by metagenomics. The release of lysis products by phages converts organic carbon from particulate (cells) to dissolved forms (lysis products), which makes organic carbon more bio-available and thus acts as a catalyst of geochemical nutrient cycles. Phages are not only the most abundant biological entities but probably also the most diverse ones. The majority of the sequence data obtained from phage communities has no equivalent in data bases. These data and other detailed analyses indicate that phage-specific genes and ecological traits are much more frequent than previously thought. In order to reveal the meaning of this genetic and ecological versatility, studies have to be performed with communities and at spatiotemporal scales relevant for microorganisms read more ...