High transcriptional activity and diverse functional repertoires of hundreds of giant viruses in a coastal marine system


Viruses belonging to the Nucleocytoviricota phylum are globally distributed and include members with notably large genomes and complex functional repertoires. Recent studies have shown that these viruses are particularly diverse and abundant in marine systems, but the magnitude of actively replicating Nucleocytoviricota present in ocean habitats remains unclear. In this study, we compiled a curated database of 2,431 Nucleocytoviricota genomes and used it to examine the gene expression of these viruses in a 2.5-day metatranscriptomic time-series from surface waters of the California Current. We identified 145 viral genomes with high levels of gene expression, including 90 Imitervirales and 49 Algavirales viruses. In addition to recovering high expression of core genes involved in information processing that are commonly expressed during viral infection, we also identified transcripts of diverse viral metabolic genes from pathways such as glycolysis, the TCA cycle, and the pentose phosphate pathway, suggesting that virus-mediated reprogramming of central carbon metabolism is common in oceanic surface waters. Surprisingly, we also identified viral transcripts with homology to actin, myosin, and kinesin domains, suggesting that viruses may use these gene products to manipulate host cytoskeletal dynamics during infection. We performed phylogenetic analysis on the virus-encoded myosin and kinesin proteins, which demonstrated that most belong to deep-branching viral clades, but that others appear to have been acquired from eukaryotes more recently. Our results highlight a remarkable diversity of active Nucleocytoviricota in a coastal marine system and underscore the complex functional repertoires expressed by these viruses during infection.

Msystems, 6(4)
Mohammad 'Monir' Moniruzzaman
Mohammad 'Monir' Moniruzzaman
Assistant Professor of Marine Biology and Ecology