Discarded diversity: Novel megaphages, auxiliary metabolic genes, and virally encoded CRISPR-Cas systems in landfills

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2024 May 31:2024.05.30.596742. doi: 10.1101/2024.05.30.596742.


Background: Viruses are the most abundant microbial entity on the planet, impacting microbial community structure and ecosystem services. Despite outnumbering Bacteria and Archaea by an order of magnitude, viruses have been comparatively underrepresented in reference databases. Metagenomic examinations have illustrated that viruses of Bacteria and Archaea have been specifically understudied in engineered environments. Here we employed metagenomic and computational biology methods to examine the diversity, host interactions, and genetic systems of viruses predicted from 27 samples taken from three municipal landfills across North America.

Results: We identified numerous viruses that are not represented in reference databases, including the third largest bacteriophage genome identified to date (~678 kbp), and note a cosmopolitan diversity of viruses in landfills that are distinct from viromes in other systems. Host-virus interactions were examined via host CRISPR spacer to viral protospacer mapping which captured hyper-targeted viral populations and six viral populations predicted to infect across multiple phyla. Virally-encoded auxiliary metabolic genes (AMGs) were identified with the potential to augment hosts' methane, sulfur, and contaminant degradation metabolisms, including AMGs not previously reported in literature. CRISPR arrays and CRISPR-Cas systems were identified from predicted viral genomes, including the two largest bacteriophage genomes to contain these genetic features. Some virally encoded Cas effector proteins appear distinct relative to previously reported Cas systems and are interesting targets for potential genome editing tools.

Conclusions: Our observations indicate landfills, as heterogeneous contaminated sites with unique selective pressures, are key locations for diverse viruses and atypical virus-host dynamics.

Keywords: CRISPR; CRISPR-Cas; landfill; municipal solid waste; phage; viruses.

Publication types

  • Preprint