Chapter 3 : Bacteriophages at the Poles

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This chapter explores the data collected on the importance of bacteriophages to the ecology of the earth's polar regions. It examines the numbers of phage-like particles that have been observed in the ecosystems and their importance in regulating bacterial numbers and the food chain of the extreme oligotrophic environments. To understand the potential impact of bacteriophages on polar ecosystems, it is first necessary to understand the different life choices of phages and how environmental factors are known to affect them. Perhaps not surprisingly, these data suggest that bacteriophages are an important shunt in carbon cycling in the Antarctic regions as well as in the Arctic. Unlike many other studies, the authors conclude that neither bacteriovores nor bacteriophages are important regulators of bacterial numbers but that numbers are regulated by algae blooms and other factors that affect bacterial growth. Pseudolysogeny was first defined by Baess in 1971. In his review, pseudolysogeny was identified as a phage-host interaction in which the phage, following infection of the host, elicits an unstable, nonproductive response. Thus any study that enumerates total virus-like particles (VLPs) must be tempered with the understanding that not all will be infective. The data obtained in this study support the hypothesis that bacteriophages are of quantifiable significance in the carbon-flow cycle of Antarctic oligotrophic lakes. Few researchers have investigated bacteriophages in both the Arctic and Antarctic in the same study. Phylogenetic analysis of their data revealed five previously uncharacterized subgroups of T4-like bacteriophages in many environments, including the Arctic samples.

Citation: Miller R. 2012. Bacteriophages at the Poles, p 62-78. In Miller R, Whyte L (ed), Polar Microbiology: Life in a Deep Freeze. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817183.ch3
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Image of FIGURE 1

The lytic and lysogenic life cycles of bacteriophages. (A) The lytic life cycle, which leads to the production of progeny phages. (B) The temperate life cycle, in which a prophage is established in the host cell, producing a bacterium referred to as a lysogen. The prophage is not transcribed (indicated by the X's), but replicates with the host cell's genome and is partitioned into its daughter cells. Some prophages are integrated into the host genome, while other types are carried as plasmids. Note: The host genome is not illustrated in this figure. (Reprinted from , , with permission from ASM Press.)

Citation: Miller R. 2012. Bacteriophages at the Poles, p 62-78. In Miller R, Whyte L (ed), Polar Microbiology: Life in a Deep Freeze. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817183.ch3
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