New viral biogeochemical roles revealed through metagenomic analysis of Lake Baikal

Microbiome. 2020 Nov 19;8(1):163. doi: 10.1186/s40168-020-00936-4.


Background: Lake Baikal is the largest body of liquid freshwater on Earth. Previous studies have described the microbial composition of this habitat, but the viral communities from this ecosystem have not been characterized in detail.

Results: Here, we describe the viral diversity of this habitat across depth and seasonal gradients. We discovered 19,475 bona fide viral sequences, which are derived from viruses predicted to infect abundant and ecologically important taxa that reside in Lake Baikal, such as Nitrospirota, Methylophilaceae, and Crenarchaeota. Diversity analysis revealed significant changes in viral community composition between epipelagic and bathypelagic zones. Analysis of the gene content of individual viral populations allowed us to describe one of the first bacteriophages that infect Nitrospirota, and their extensive repertoire of auxiliary metabolic genes that might enhance carbon fixation through the reductive TCA cycle. We also described bacteriophages of methylotrophic bacteria with the potential to enhance methanol oxidation and the S-adenosyl-L-methionine cycle.

Conclusions: These findings unraveled new ways by which viruses influence the carbon cycle in freshwater ecosystems, namely, by using auxiliary metabolic genes that act upon metabolisms of dark carbon fixation and methylotrophy. Therefore, our results shed light on the processes through which viruses can impact biogeochemical cycles of major ecological relevance. Video Abstract.

Keywords: Auxiliary metabolic genes; Bacteriophages; Lake Baikal; Metagenomes; Methylotrophy; Nitrospira; Reductive TCA cycle; S-adenosyl-L-methionine cycle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriophages / classification
  • Bacteriophages / genetics
  • Bacteriophages / isolation & purification
  • Bacteriophages / metabolism
  • Carbon Cycle / genetics
  • Citric Acid Cycle / genetics
  • Ecosystem*
  • Genes, Viral
  • Lakes*
  • Metagenome / genetics*
  • Metagenomics*
  • Russia
  • Seasons
  • Viruses / classification
  • Viruses / genetics*
  • Viruses / isolation & purification
  • Viruses / metabolism*