Widespread cryptic viral infections in lotic biofilms

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Payne, A.T., A.J. Davidson, J. Kan, M. Peipoch, R. Bier, and K. Williamson. 2020. Biofilm 2, 100016.


Viruses have important impacts on aquatic microbial ecology and have been studied at length in the global ocean. However, the roles of bacteriophages in lotic ecosystems, particularly in benthic biofilms, have been largely under-studied. The main goals of this work were to determine whether viruses are consistent members of natural benthic biofilm communities of freshwater streams; whether temperate phages are present and active in such biofilms; and whether community profiling approaches like RAPD-PCR can be adapted to characterize biofilm virus communities. Results from both field and laboratory experiments suggest that viruses are consistent members of lotic biofilm communities. Interestingly, prophage induction was statistically significant but only a small percentage of the total bacterial population appeared to harbor prophage or engaged in induction. Finally, while the use of RAPD-PCR for the community level profiling of biofilm viral communities suggests temporal change in response to biofilm maturity, further refinements are required for broad-scale quantitative application.