During an experiment in two laboratory-scale enclosures filled with lake water (130 liters each) we noticed the almost-complete lysis of the cyanobacterial population. Based on electron microscopic observations of viral particles inside cyanobacterial filaments and counts of virus-like particles, we concluded that a viral lysis of the filamentous cyanobacteria had taken place. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of 16S ribosomal DNA fragments qualitatively monitored the removal of the cyanobacterial species from the community and the appearance of newly emerging bacterial species. The majority of these bacteria were related to the Cytophagales and actinomycetes, bacterial divisions known to contain species capable of degrading complex organic molecules. A few days after the cyanobacteria started to lyse, a rotifer species became dominant in the DGGE profile of the eukaryotic community. Since rotifers play an important role in the carbon transfer between the microbial loop and higher trophic levels, these observations confirm the role of viruses in channeling carbon through food webs. Multidimensional scaling analysis of the DGGE profiles showed large changes in the structures of both the bacterial and eukaryotic communities at the time of lysis. These changes were remarkably similar in the two enclosures, indicating that such community structure changes are not random but occur according to a fixed pattern. Our findings strongly support the idea that viruses can structure microbial communities. [KEYWORDS: GRADIENT GEL-ELECTROPHORESIS; POLYMERASE CHAIN-REACTION; MICROBIAL COMMUNITIES; RIBOSOMAL-RNA; CELL-LYSIS; GROWTH; ABUNDANCE; DYNAMICS; BACTERIOPLANKTON; PHYTOPLANKTON]
Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Journal publication date1999

ID: 153104