Nav: Home

Study: Viruses support photosynthesis in bacteria -- an evolutionary advantage?

February 23, 2017

It appears to stimulate the photosynthesis of host bacteria. The study has now been published in the prestigious journal Journal of Biological Chemistry.

When viruses infect a cell, they use it as a factory to replicate themselves. "They abuse the bacteria to produce new virus proteins," says microbiology professor Dr Nicole Frankenberg-Dinkel, from the TU Kaiserslautern. "This creates new viruses that are assembled in the host cell." Bacteriophages also carry what are known as auxiliary metabolic genes in their DNA. "These are responsible for producing various proteins. They appear to give the virus an advantage, for instance, by stimulating the host cell`s metabolism," adds professor Dr Eckhard Hofmann, who leads the protein crystallography group at the Ruhr University Bochum.

In this study, the researchers concentrated on bacteriophages that infect blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria. Their work focused on a certain protein, whose structure they analysed more closely. "Our findings indicate that it plays an important role in the assembly of light-harvesting complexes in host bacteria," explains Frankenberg-Dinkel. These complexes allow the microorganisms to harvest the energy of sunlight. Just like plants, they conduct photosynthesis - using light energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates and oxygen. "These light-harvesting complexes consist of proteins and coloured pigments," the Kaiserslautern professor continues. In the case of blue-green algae, a pink coloured pigment (phycoerythrobilin) is particularly important.

Frankenberg-Dinkel and Hofmann's team has proved that the virus protein ('phycobiliprotein lyase CpeT') binds the coloured pigment. Moreover, the team determined that the association between the virus protein and bacterial pigment is incredibly stable. "By looking under the microscope, we have also seen that the complex is highly fluorescent," Frankenberg-Dinkel states.

The results of the study show that the viral protein stimulates the assembly of light-harvesting complexes. "This gives the virus an evolutionary advantage," Frankenberg-Dinkel says. "They ensure a high rate of photosynthesis in the bacteria during infection, meaning sufficient energy is available for the production of new viruses."

This mechanism is widespread among viruses that infect blue-green algae. However, further studies will have to clarify why the genome of the viruses only contains certain auxiliary metabolic genes. Bacteriophages are among the most prevalent biological entities on earth. They are not considered living creatures. Scientists have discovered many new bacteriophages in recent years. Researching them will provide important clues to their biological function.
-end-
The study has now been published in the scientific journal the Journal of Biological Chemistry as the title article: 'Distinct Features of Cyanophage-encoded T-type Phycobiliprotein Lyase ?CpeT' DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M116.769703

Ruhr-University Bochum

Related Bacteria Articles:

How bees live with bacteria
More than 90 percent of all bee species are not organized in colonies, but fight their way through life alone.
The bacteria building your baby
Australian researchers have laid to rest a longstanding controversy: is the womb sterile?
Detecting bacteria in space
A new genomic approach provides a glimpse into the diverse bacterial ecosystem on the International Space Station.
Hopping bacteria
Scientists have long known that key models of bacterial movement in real-world conditions are flawed.
Bacteria uses viral weapon against other bacteria
Bacterial cells use both a virus -- traditionally thought to be an enemy -- and a prehistoric viral protein to kill other bacteria that competes with it for food according to an international team of researchers who believe this has potential implications for future infectious disease treatment.
More Bacteria News and Bacteria Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...