Lytic viral infection of bacterioplankton in deep waters of the western Pacific Ocean
As the most abundant biological entities in the ocean, viruses influence host mortality and nutrient recycling mainly through lytic infection. Yet, the ecological characteristics of virioplankton and viral impacts on host mortality and biogeochemical cycling in the deep sea are largely unknown. In the present study, viral abundance and lytic infection were investigated throughout the water column in the western Pacific Ocean. Both the prokaryotic and viral abundance and production showed a significantly decreasing trend from epipelagic to meso- and bathypelagic waters. Viral abundance decreased from 0.36–1.05 × 10 10 particles L −1 to 0.43–0.80 × 10 9 particles L −1, while the virus : prokaryote ratio varied from 7.21 to 16.23 to 2.45–23.40, at the surface and 2000 m, respectively. Lytic viral production rates in surface and 2000 m waters were, on average, 1.03 × 10 10 L −1 day −1 and 5.74 × 10 8 L −1 day −1. Relatively high percentages of prokaryotic cells lysed by viruses at 1000 and 2000 m were observed, suggesting a significant contribution of viruses to prokaryotic mortality in the deep ocean. The carbon released by viral lysis in deep western Pacific Ocean waters was from 0.03 to 2.32 μg C L −1 day −1. Our findings demonstrated a highly dynamic and active viral population in these deep waters and suggested that virioplankton play an important role in the microbial loop and subsequently biogeochemical cycling in deep oceans.