A myovirus encoding both photosystem i and II proteins enhances cyclic electron flow in infected Prochlorococcus cells

Svetlana Fridman, José Flores-Uribe, Shirley Larom, Onit Alalouf, Oded Liran, Iftach Yacoby, Faris Salama, Benjamin Bailleul, Fabrice Rappaport, Tamar Ziv, Itai Sharon, Francisco M. Cornejo-Castillo, Alon Philosof, Christopher L. Dupont, Pablo Sánchez, Silvia G. Acinas, Forest L. Rohwer, Debbie Lindell*, Oded Béjà

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cyanobacteria are important contributors to primary production in the open oceans. Over the past decade, various photosynthesis-related genes have been found in viruses that infect cyanobacteria (cyanophages). Although photosystem II (PSII) genes are common in both cultured cyanophages and environmental samples 1-4, viral photosystem I (vPSI) genes have so far only been detected in environmental samples 5,6 . Here, we have used a targeted strategy to isolate a cyanophage from the tropical Pacific Ocean that carries a PSI gene cassette with seven distinct PSI genes (psaJF, C, A, B, K, E, D) as well as two PSII genes (psbA, D). This cyanophage, P-TIM68, belongs to the T4-like myoviruses, has a prolate capsid, a long contractile tail and infects Prochlorococcus sp. strain MIT9515. Phage photosynthesis genes from both photosystems are expressed during infection, and the resultant proteins are incorporated into membranes of the infected host. Moreover, photosynthetic capacity in the cell is maintained throughout the infection cycle with enhancement of cyclic electron flow around PSI. Analysis of metagenomic data from the Tara Oceans expedition 7 shows that phages carrying PSI gene cassettes are abundant in the tropical Pacific Ocean, composing up to 28% of T4-like cyanomyophages. They are also present in the tropical Indian and Atlantic Oceans. P-TIM68 populations, specifically, compose on average 22% of the PSI-gene-cassette carrying phages. Our results suggest that cyanophages carrying PSI and PSII genes are likely to maintain and even manipulate photosynthesis during infection of their Prochlorococcus hosts in the tropical oceans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1350-1357
Number of pages8
JournalNature Microbiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2017


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