Chloroviruses (family Phycodnaviridae) are large DNA viruses known to infect certain eukaryotic green algae and have not been previously shown to infect humans or to be part of the human virome. We unexpectedly found sequences homologous to the chlorovirus Acanthocystis turfacea chlorella virus 1 (ATCV-1) in a metagenomic analysis of DNA extracted from human oropharyngeal samples. These samples were obtained by throat swabs of adults without a psychiatric disorder or serious physical illness who were participating in a study that included measures of cognitive functioning. The presence of ATCV-1 DNA was confirmed by quantitative PCR with ATCV-1 DNA being documented in oropharyngeal samples obtained from 40 (43.5%) of 92 individuals. The presence of ATCV-1 DNA was not associated with demographic variables but was associated with a modest but statistically significant decrease in the performance on cognitive assessments of visual processing and visual motor speed. We further explored the effects of ATCV-1 in a mouse model. The inoculation of ATCV-1 into the intestinal tract of 9-11-wk-old mice resulted in a subsequent decrease in performance in several cognitive domains, including ones involving recognition memory and sensory-motor gating. ATCV-1 exposure in mice also resulted in the altered expression of genes within the hippocampus. These genes comprised pathways related to synaptic plasticity, learning, memory formation, and the immune response to viral exposure.
Chloroviruses infect their hosts by specifically binding to and degrading the cell wall of their algal hosts at the site of attachment, using an intrinsic digesting enzyme(s). Chlorovirus PBCV-1 stored as a lysate survived longer than virus alone, suggesting virus attachment to cellular debris may be reversible. Ghost cells (algal cells extracted with methanol) were used as a model to study reversibility of PBCV-1 attachment because ghost cells are as susceptible to attachment and wall digestion as are live cells. Reversibility of attachment to ghost cells was examined by releasing attached virions with a cell wall degrading enzyme extract. The majority of the released virions retained infectivity even after re-incubating the released virions with ghost cells two times. Thus the chloroviruses appear to have a dynamic attachment strategy that may be beneficial in indigenous environments where cell wall debris can act as a refuge until appropriate host cells are available.
A Chlorovirus aquaglyceroporin expressed in tobacco is localized to the plastid and plasma membranes. Transgenic events display improved response to water deficit. Necrosis in adult stage plants is observed. Aquaglyceroporins are a subclass of the water channel aquaporin proteins (AQPs) that transport glycerol along with other small molecules transcellular in addition to water. In the studies communicated herein, we analyzed the expression of the aquaglyceroporin gene designated, aqpv1, from Chlorovirus MT325, in tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum), along with phenotypic changes induced by aqpv1 expression in planta. Interestingly, aqpv1 expression under control of either a constitutive or a root-preferred promoter, triggered local lesion formation in older leaves, which progressed significantly after induction of flowering. Fusion of aqpv1 with GFP suggests that the protein localized to the plasmalemma, and potentially with plastid and endoplasmic reticulum membranes. Physiological characterizations of transgenic plants during juvenile stage growth were monitored for potential mitigation to water dry-down (i.e., drought) and recovery. Phenotypic analyses on drought mimic/recovery of juvenile transgenic plants that expressed a functional aqpv1 transgene had higher photosynthetic rates, stomatal conductance, and water use efficiency, along with maximum carboxylation and electron transport rates when compared to control plants. These physiological attributes permitted the juvenile aqpv1 transgenic plants to perform better under drought-mimicked conditions and hastened recovery following re-watering. This drought mitigation effect is linked to the ability of the transgenic plants to maintain cell turgor.
Paramecium bursaria chlorella virus 1 (PBCV-1) is the prototype of the genus Chlorovirus (family Phycodnaviridae) that infects the unicellular, eukaryotic green alga Chlorella variabilis NC64A. The 331-kb PBCV-1 genome contains 416 major open reading frames. A mRNA-seq approach was used to analyze PBCV-1 transcriptomes at 6 progressive times during the first hour of infection. The alignment of 17 million reads to the PBCV-1 genome allowed the construction of single-base transcriptome maps. Significant transcription was detected for a subset of 50 viral genes as soon as 7 min after infection. By 20 min post infection (p.i.), transcripts were detected for most PBCV-1 genes and transcript levels continued to increase globally up to 60 min p.i., at which time 41% or the poly (A+)-containing RNAs in the infected cells mapped to the PBCV-1 genome. For some viral genes, the number of transcripts in the latter time points (20 to 60 min p.i.) was much higher than that of the most highly expressed host genes. RNA-seq data revealed putative polyadenylation signal sequences in PBCV-1 genes that were identical to the polyadenylation signal AAUAAA of green algae. Several transcripts have an RNA fragment excised. However, the frequency of excision and the resulting putative shortened protein products suggest that most of these excision events have no functional role but are probably the result of the activity of misled splicesomes.
The PBCV-1/Chlorella variabilis NC64A system is a model for studies on interactions between viruses and algae. Here we present the first global analyses of algal host transcripts during the early stages of infection, prior to virus replication. During the course of the experiment stretching over 1 hour, about a third of the host genes displayed significant changes in normalized mRNA abundance that either increased or decreased compared to uninfected levels. The population of genes with significant transcriptional changes gradually increased until stabilizing at 40 minutes post infection. Functional categories including cytoplasmic ribosomal proteins, jasmonic acid biosynthesis and anaphase promoting complex/cyclosomes had a significant excess in upregulated genes, whereas spliceosomal snRNP complexes and the shikimate pathway had significantly more down-regulated genes, suggesting that these pathways were activated or shut-down in response to the virus infection. Lastly, we examined the expression of C. varibilis RNA polymerase subunits, as PBCV-1 transcription depends on host RNA polymerases. Two subunits were up-regulated, RPB10 and RPC34, suggesting that they may function to support virus transcription. These results highlight genes and pathways, as well as overall trends, for further refinement of our understanding of the changes that take place during the early stages of viral infection.
With growing industrial interest in algae plus their critical roles in aquatic systems, the need to understand the effects of algal pathogens is increasing. We examined a model algal host-virus system, Chlorella variabilis NC64A and virus, PBCV-1. C. variabilis encodes 375 homologs to genes involved in RNA silencing and in response to virus infection in higher plants. Illumina RNA-Seq data showed that 325 of these homologs were expressed in healthy and early PBCV-1 infected (?60min) cells. For each of the RNA silencing genes to which homologs were found, mRNA transcripts were detected in healthy and infected cells. C. variabilis, like higher plants, may employ certain RNA silencing pathways to defend itself against virus infection. To our knowledge this is the first examination of RNA silencing genes in algae beyond core proteins, and the first analysis of their transcription during virus infection.
Giant viruses in the genus Chlorovirus (family Phycodnaviridae) infect eukaryotic green microalgae. The prototype member of the genus, Paramecium bursaria chlorella virus 1, was sequenced more than 15 years ago, and to date there are only 6 fully sequenced chloroviruses in public databases. Presented here are the draft genome sequences of 35 additional chloroviruses (287 - 348 Kb/319 - 381 predicted protein encoding genes) collected across the globe; they infect one of three different green algal species. These new data allowed us to analyze the genomic landscape of 41 chloroviruses, which revealed some remarkable features about these viruses.
Viruses infecting higher plants are among the smallest viruses known and typically have four to ten protein-encoding genes. By contrast, many viruses that infect algae (classified in the virus family Phycodnaviridae) are among the largest viruses found to date and have up to 600 protein-encoding genes. This brief review focuses on one group of plaque-forming phycodnaviruses that infect unicellular chlorella-like green algae. The prototype chlorovirus PBCV-1 has more than 400 protein-encoding genes and 11 tRNA genes. About 40% of the PBCV-1 encoded proteins resemble proteins of known function including many that are completely unexpected for a virus. In many respects, chlorovirus infection resembles bacterial infection by tailed bacteriophages.
A cryoelectron microscopy 8.5 ? resolution map of the 1,900 ? diameter, icosahedral, internally enveloped Paramecium bursaria chlorella virus was used to interpret structures of the virus at initial stages of cell infection. A fivefold averaged map demonstrated that two minor capsid proteins involved in stabilizing the capsid are missing in the vicinity of the unique vertex. Reconstruction of the virus in the presence of host chlorella cell walls established that the spike at the unique vertex initiates binding to the cell wall, which results in the enveloped nucleocapsid moving closer to the cell. This process is concurrent with the release of the internal viral membrane that was linked to the capsid by many copies of a viral membrane protein in the mature infectous virus. Simultaneously, part of the trisymmetrons around the unique vertex disassemble, probably in part because two minor capsid proteins are absent, causing Paramecium bursaria chlorella virus and the cellular contents to merge, possibly as a result of enzyme(s) within the spike assembly. This may be one of only a few recordings of successive stages of a virus while infecting a eukaryotic host in pseudoatomic detail in three dimensions.
Chlorella viruses (or chloroviruses) are very large, plaque-forming viruses. The viruses are multilayered structures containing a large double-stranded DNA genome, a lipid bilayered membrane, and an outer icosahedral capsid shell. The viruses replicate in certain isolates of the coccal green alga, Chlorella. Sequence analysis of the 330-kbp genome of Paramecium bursaria Chlorella virus 1 (PBCV-1), the prototype of the virus family Phycodnaviridae, reveals <365 protein-encoding genes and 11 tRNA genes. Products of about 40% of these genes resemble proteins of known function, including many that are unexpected for a virus. Among these is a virus-encoded protein, called Kcv, which forms a functional K(+) channel. This chapter focuses on the initial steps in virus infection and provides a plausible role for the function of the viral K(+) channel in lowering the turgor pressure of the host. This step appears to be a prerequisite for delivery of the viral genome into the host.
Chlorella variabilis NC64A, a unicellular photosynthetic green alga (Trebouxiophyceae), is an intracellular photobiont of Paramecium bursaria and a model system for studying virus/algal interactions. We sequenced its 46-Mb nuclear genome, revealing an expansion of protein families that could have participated in adaptation to symbiosis. NC64A exhibits variations in GC content across its genome that correlate with global expression level, average intron size, and codon usage bias. Although Chlorella species have been assumed to be asexual and nonmotile, the NC64A genome encodes all the known meiosis-specific proteins and a subset of proteins found in flagella. We hypothesize that Chlorella might have retained a flagella-derived structure that could be involved in sexual reproduction. Furthermore, a survey of phytohormone pathways in chlorophyte algae identified algal orthologs of Arabidopsis thaliana genes involved in hormone biosynthesis and signaling, suggesting that these functions were established prior to the evolution of land plants. We show that the ability of Chlorella to produce chitinous cell walls likely resulted from the capture of metabolic genes by horizontal gene transfer from algal viruses, prokaryotes, or fungi. Analysis of the NC64A genome substantially advances our understanding of the green lineage evolution, including the genomic interplay with viruses and symbiosis between eukaryotes.
Viruses with genomes greater than 300 kb and up to 1200 kb are being discovered with increasing frequency. These large viruses (often called giruses) can encode up to 900 proteins and also many tRNAs. Consequently, these viruses have more protein-encoding genes than many bacteria, and the concept of small particle/small genome that once defined viruses is no longer valid. Giruses infect bacteria and animals although most of the recently discovered ones infect protists. Thus, genome gigantism is not restricted to a specific host or phylogenetic clade. To date, most of the giruses are associated with aqueous environments. Many of these large viruses (phycodnaviruses and Mimiviruses) probably have a common evolutionary ancestor with the poxviruses, iridoviruses, asfarviruses, ascoviruses, and a recently discovered Marseillevirus. One issue that is perhaps not appreciated by the microbiology community is that large viruses, even ones classified in the same family, can differ significantly in morphology, lifestyle, and genome structure. This review focuses on some of these differences than on extensive details about individual viruses.
In contrast to all other viruses that use the host machinery located in the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi to glycosylate their glycoproteins, the large dsDNA-containing chlorella viruses encode most, if not all, of the components to glycosylate their major capsid proteins. Furthermore, all experimental results indicate that glycosylation occurs independent of the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi.
The 331-kbp chlorovirus Paramecium bursaria chlorella virus 1 (PBCV-1) genome was resequenced and annotated to correct errors in the original 15-year-old sequence; 40 codons was considered the minimum protein size of an open reading frame. PBCV-1 has 416 predicted protein-encoding sequences and 11 tRNAs. A proteome analysis was also conducted on highly purified PBCV-1 virions using two mass spectrometry-based protocols. The mass spectrometry-derived data were compared to PBCV-1 and its host Chlorella variabilis NC64A predicted proteomes. Combined, these analyses revealed 148 unique virus-encoded proteins associated with the virion (about 35% of the coding capacity of the virus) and 1 host protein. Some of these proteins appear to be structural/architectural, whereas others have enzymatic, chromatin modification, and signal transduction functions. Most (106) of the proteins have no known function or homologs in the existing gene databases except as orthologs with proteins of other chloroviruses, phycodnaviruses, and nuclear-cytoplasmic large DNA viruses. The genes encoding these proteins are dispersed throughout the virus genome, and most are transcribed late or early-late in the infection cycle, which is consistent with virion morphogenesis.
Little is known about the mechanisms of adaptation of life to the extreme environmental conditions encountered in polar regions. Here we present the genome sequence of a unicellular green alga from the division chlorophyta, Coccomyxa subellipsoidea C-169, which we will hereafter refer to as C-169. This is the first eukaryotic microorganism from a polar environment to have its genome sequenced.
Chlorella viruses have icosahedral capsids with an internal membrane enclosing their large dsDNA genomes and associated proteins. Their genomes are packaged in the particles with a predicted DNA density of ca. 0.2 bp nm(-3). Occasionally infection of an algal cell by an individual particle fails and the viral DNA is dynamically ejected from the capsid. This shows that the release of the DNA generates a force, which can aid in the transfer of the genome into the host in a successful infection. Imaging of ejected viral DNA indicates that it is intimately associated with proteins in a periodic fashion. The bulk of the protein particles detected by atomic force microscopy have a size of ?60 kDa and two proteins (A278L and A282L) of about this size are among 6 basic putative DNA binding proteins found in a proteomic analysis of DNA binding proteins packaged in the virion. A combination of fluorescence images of ejected DNA and a bioinformatics analysis of the DNA reveal periodic patterns in the viral DNA. The periodic distribution of GC rich regions in the genome provides potential binding sites for basic proteins. This DNA/protein aggregation could be responsible for the periodic concentration of fluorescently labeled DNA observed in ejected viral DNA. Collectively the data indicate that the large chlorella viruses have a DNA packaging strategy that differs from bacteriophages; it involves proteins and share similarities to that of chromatin structure in eukaryotes.
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