Marine viruses could help slow climate change

Scientists recently found that 5,500 marine RNA virus species† The study has shown that several of these types of carbon absorbed from the atmosphere can drive to be stored on the ocean floor.

A small fraction of these newly identified species had “stolen” genes from organisms they infect, allowing researchers to identify their hosts and functions in marine processes. This research leads to a better understanding of the role these small particles play in the ocean ecosystem.

“The findings are important for modeling and predicting what happens to carbon in the right direction and size,” said Ahmed Zayed, a research scientist at The Ohio State University and co-first author of the study.

Lead author Matthew Sullivan envisions identifying viruses that, when developed on a large scale, can function as controllable “buttons” that affect the way carbon is stored in the ocean.

“As humans put more carbon into the atmosphere, we depend on the ocean’s massive buffering capacity to slow climate change. We are becoming increasingly aware that we may need to tailor the pump to the scale of the ocean,” he said. Sullivan.

“We’d be interested in viruses that could tune into a more digestible carbon, allowing the system to grow, produce bigger and bigger cells, and sink. And if it sinks, we’ll gain another few hundred or a thousand years from the worst of the effects.” of climate change.”

These RNA viruses were detected in plankton samples collected by the Tara Oceans Consortium, a global study of the impact of climate change on the ocean. The research project aims to predict how the ocean will respond to climate change by understanding the organisms that take up half of the human-generated carbon in the atmosphere and produce half of the oxygen we breathe.

These marine viral species infect organisms using their cellular machinery to make copies of themselves. While this is bad for the host, the virus can provide environmental benefits, such as reducing a harmful algal bloom.

As a result of the statistical analysis, the study revealed that while warmer regions tend to be more biodiverse, the diversity of RNA viral species was greater than expected in the Arctic and Antarctic.

“When it comes to diversity, viruses don’t care about temperature,” said co-first author Guillermo Dominguez-Huerta. “There were more apparent interactions between viruses and cellular life in polar regions. That tells us that the great diversity we’re looking at in polar regions is actually because we have more viral species competing for the same host. We see fewer host species, but more viral species infecting the same hosts.”

The viruses were also found to accidentally integrate into genomes. “If it happens, it’s a clue about the host, because if you find a virus signal in a host genome, it’s because the virus was in the cell at some point,” Dominguez-Huerta said.

The experts found that RNA viruses mainly infect fungi and microbial eukaryotes and invertebrates. Only a small proportion of viruses infect bacteria.

Further analysis identified 1,243 RNA virus species associated with carbon export. Eleven species were involved in promoting carbon exports to the seabed. Of these, two viruses linked to hosts in the algal family were selected as the most promising targets for follow-up.

“I imagine that our use of AMGs, and these viruses that are predicted to infect certain hosts, to actually move those metabolic maps toward the carbon we need. It’s through that metabolic activity that we probably have to act.” said Sullivan.

Sullivan, Dominguez-Huerta and Zayed are also team members in the EMERGE Biology Integration Institute in the state of Ohio.

The study is published in the journal Science

Through Katherine BuckoEarth.com Staff Writer


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