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Yellowstone viruses 'jump' between hot pools
Date:11/12/2007

iruses in the air column above pools, suggesting the viruses might be buoyed from pool to pool in droplets of steam.

Strangely, viruses thrived in pools even if their chosen hosts were relatively rare. Sulfolobus viruses are not hearty. Most survive only a few hours in the acidic water outside a host. If Sulfolobus is common microbe in a hot pool, a virus next victim might be too far away to reach. Still, the study suggests the viruses are successful in infecting microbes, even if new hosts are rare and separated by hostile waters. The viruses might also be capable of infecting a wider range of microbes than researchers now know. Its really a mystery how these viruses could have evolved if they cant survive in hot pools by themselves, says Idaho National Laboratory microbiology Frank Roberto, who sequenced and analyzed the virus DNA. To reproduce, these viruses need to leave their hosts. Then theyre entering a really hostile environment.

Learning how viruses interact with their thermoacidophilic hosts may become increasingly important as microbes are adapted for a number of large-scale energy applications, from cleaning coal plant smokestacks to processing cellulose for ethanol.

A greater understanding of the significance of viruses in Yellowstone thermal features is still on the horizon, Roberto says. Were in uncharted territory in terms of understanding how these viruses impact the ecosystem of these pools, he says. When viruses leave their hosts, they sometimes carry bits of host DNA with them. Roberto speculates Yellowstone viruses may transport genetic information from one pool to another, impacting the evolution of microbes across the park.


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Contact: Rachel Courtland
rachel.courtland@inl.gov
208-526-4595
DOE/Idaho National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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