Temperate viruses and lysogeny in Lake Superior bacterioplankton

Mark A. Tapper, Randall E Hicks

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77 Scopus citations


The morphology and abundance of free viruses were measured in spring, summer, and fall at one site in Lake Superior. Free viral head sizes ranged from 10 to 70 nm and tail length ranged from 10 to 110 nm. The vast majority (98%) of free vital head sizes were ≤60 nm, smaller than reported in most freshwater habitats. Most of these free viruses (70%) had polyhedral heads and tails, indicative of bacteriophage. Free viral abundance only ranged from 0.1 to 9 x 106 viruses ml-1 in the surface microlayer (top 20 μm) and subsurface water (20 m) in Lake Superior, but viruses were 2-15 times more abundant in the surface microlayer. This difference may be due to the enrichment of bacterial hosts, higher levels of UV light that induce temperate phage, or differences in viral burst sizes in the surface microlayer relative to subsurface water. Bacterioplankton were always more abundant than free viruses in both the surface microlayer and subsurface water, which resulted in some of the lowest virus-to-bacterium ratios reported for marine or freshwater environments. Temperate viruses from both habitats responded equally to mitomycin-C and UV light treatments used to induce prophage into lyric cycles. An estimated 0.1-7.4% of the bacterioplankton from this site in Lake Superior contained temperate prophage depending on vital burst sizes that were assumed. Three times more bacteria in the surface microlayer may contain temperate viruses compared to bacterioplankton in subsurface waters. In the western arm of Lake Superior, bacterioplankton infected by temperate phage may be more important for the survival of bacteriophage populations than as future carbon sources for new microbial production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-103
Number of pages9
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1998


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