Virus may aid photosynthesis

New study suggests phage genes may also help host bacteria

Charles Choi(cqchoi@nasw.org)
Oct 12, 2005

Marine viruses may use their own photosynthesis genes to enhance their fitness by temporarily boosting the energy production of bacteria they infect, scientists report this week in Nature. The advantages the viruses transfer to their hosts "may have helped enable these bacteria to become the dominant photosynthetic organisms in their habitats," co-author Debbie Lindell at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at Cambridge told The Scientist. More research into how viruses could temporarily benefit a host's metabolism could shed light on their co-evolution, and what environmental factors most likely impact hosts in their habitats, she added.

Many viruses that infect cyanobacteria carry photosynthesis genes. Lindell and her colleagues at co-author Sallie Chisholm's lab noted that in podovirus P-SSP7, photosynthesis genes have overlapping start and stop codons and are transcribed along with essential phage capsid genes, suggesting they are integral parts of the viral genome. Indeed, when the researchers infected...

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