Deep sea viruses: Isolation of novel virus-host systems from hadal environments

Main area:Marine biology
Target group:Biology, Biochemistry, Bioinformatics
Educational level:Masters, Bachelor
Project description:

The deep hadal trenches (water depths > 6.000 m) are the most remote parts of the global ocean, representing some of the most extreme and scantly explored habitats on Earth. Hadal trenches are also likely hotspots of organic matter deposition fueling biogeochemical cycling in largely unexplored marine ecosystems. Viruses are a key mortality agent in microbes and their predation on microbes impact food web structures and biogeochemical cycling.

Recently, we documented 5]10 times higher virus densities and extensive spatial variation in hadal sediments as compared to adjacent abyssal sites, suggesting that viruses play a prominent role for microbial mortality and biogeochemical cycling in hadal environments. In a new research project we quantify the phylogenetic diversity and composition of hadal benthic microbial and viral communities, identify active microbial players, and quantify the role of viruses in microbial mortality and element cycling.

For an in depth understanding of how life is shaped by hadal conditions, we need good model systems of organisms that can live and perhaps even thrive under such extreme conditions. Furthermore, cultured representatives provide valuable validation and reference material for sequence-based data and for quantifying biologically driven processes. As hadal ecosystems harbor a vast and unknown diversity of microbial and viral life, we are interested in isolating new bacteria and viruses specifically from hadal environments.

This project will be undertaking a large isolation and culturing effort from hadal sediment samples, and for comparison isolation will be done in parallel on sediment samples collected from a marine, coastal ecosystem.


Methods used:microbiology, molecular biology
Keywords:Marine viruses, viral ecology, bacteriophage-host interactions
Supervisor(s):  Mathias Middelboe, Sachia Jo Traving