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Nov 05, 2014
Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America
Virioplankton play a crucial role in aquatic ecosystems as top-down regulators of bacterial populations and agents of horizontal gene transfer and nutrient cycling. However, the biology and ecology of virioplankton populations in the environment remain poorly understood. Ribonucleotide reductases (RNRs) are ancient enzymes that reduce ribonucleotides to deoxyribonucleotides and thus prime DNA synthesis. Composed of three classes according to O2 reactivity, RNRs can be predictive of the physiological conditions surrounding DNA synthesis. RNRs are universal among cellular life, common within viral genomes and virioplankton shotgun metagenomes (viromes), and estimated to occur within >90% of the dsDNA virioplankton sampled in this study. RNRs occur across diverse viral groups, including all three morphological families of tailed phages, making these genes attractive for studies of viral diversity. Differing patterns in virioplankton diversity were clear from RNRs sampled across a broad oceanic transect. The most abundant RNRs belonged to novel lineages of podoviruses infecting α-proteobacteria, a bacterial class critical to oceanic carbon cycling. RNR class was predictive of phage morphology among cyanophages and RNR distribution frequencies among cyanophages were largely consistent with the predictions of the "kill the winner-cost of resistance" model. RNRs were also identified for the first time to our knowledge within ssDNA viromes. These data indicate that RNR polymorphism provides a means of connecting the biological and ecological features of virioplankton populations.

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