Diverse RNA Viruses Associated with Diatom, Eustigmatophyte, Dinoflagellate, and Rhodophyte Microalgae Cultures.

American Society for Microbiology
Publication Type:
Journal Article
J Virol, 2022, 96, (20), pp. e0078322
Issue Date:
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Unicellular microalgae are of immense ecological importance with growing commercial potential in industries such as renewable energy, food, and pharmacology. Viral infections can have a profound impact on the growth and evolution of their hosts. However, very little is known of the diversity within, and the effect of, unicellular microalgal RNA viruses. In addition, identifying RNA viruses in these organisms that could have originated more than a billion years ago constitutes a robust data set to dissect molecular events and address fundamental questions in virus evolution. We assessed the diversity of RNA viruses in eight microalgal cultures, including representatives from the diatom, eustigmatophyte, dinoflagellate, red algae, and euglenid groups. Using metatranscriptomic sequencing combined with bioinformatic approaches optimized to detect highly divergent RNA viruses, we identified 10 RNA virus sequences, with nine constituting new viral species. Most of the newly identified RNA viruses belonged to the double-stranded Totiviridae, Endornaviridae, and Partitiviridae, greatly expanding the reported host range for these families. Two new species belonging to the single-stranded RNA viral clade Marnaviridae, commonly associated with microalgal hosts, were also identified. This study highlights that a substantial diversity of RNA viruses likely exists undetected within the unicellular microalgae. It also highlights the necessity for RNA viral characterization and for investigation of the effects of viral infections on microalgal physiology, biology, and growth, considering their environmental and industrial roles. IMPORTANCE Our knowledge of the diversity of RNA viruses infecting microbial algae-the microalgae-is minimal. However, describing the RNA viruses infecting these organisms is of primary importance at both the ecological and economic scales because of the fundamental roles these organisms play in aquatic environments and their growing value across a range of industrial fields. Using metatranscriptomic sequencing, we aimed to reveal the RNA viruses present in cultures of eight microalgae species belonging to the diatom, dinoflagellate, eustigmatophyte, rhodophyte, and euglena major clades of algae. Accordingly, we identified 10 new divergent RNA virus species belonging to RNA virus families as diverse as the double-stranded Totiviridae, Endornaviridae, and Partitiviridae and the single-stranded Marnaviridae. By expanding the known diversity of RNA viruses infecting unicellular eukaryotes, this study contributes to a better understanding of the early evolution of the virosphere and will inform the use of microalgae in industrial applications.
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