Viruses help 'dial up' ocean carbon sequestration

Armed with hundreds of thousands of listings DNA And RNA Virus species in the world's oceans, scientists are now zeroing in on viruses that fight climate change by helping seawater capture carbon dioxide, or use different viruses to prevent the escape of methane from melting Arctic soils.

By combining genome sequencing data with artificial intelligence analysis, researchers have identified marine viruses and evaluated their genomes. „steal” genes Other microbes or cells that process carbon in the ocean. Mapping microbial metabolic genes, including underwater carbon metabolism, revealed 340 known metabolic pathways across the global oceans. 128 of these were also found in the genomes of marine viruses.

„I was shocked that the number was so high,” he said Matthew SullivanProf Microbiology and director Center for Microbial Sciences at Ohio State University.

Digging through this massive data set with advances in computing, the team has now revealed which viruses play a role in carbon metabolism and is using this information in newly developed community metabolism models to help predict how marine microbes tune towards optimal carbon. Capturing looks like.

„It's modeling how viruses can dial in or out of microbial activity in a system,” Sullivan said. „Community metabolic modeling tells me the dream data point: which viruses target the most important metabolic pathways, and that means those are good levers to pull.”

Sullivan presented the study at its annual meeting today (Feb. 17, 2024) American Association for the Advancement of Science In Denver.

Sullivan was the coordinator of the virus Tara Ocean Federation, a three-year global study of the impact of climate change on the world's oceans and the provenance of 35,000 water samples with microbial richness. His lab focuses on the feasibility of scaling up an engineering framework to manipulate phages, bacteria-infecting viruses, and marine microbes.

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„Oceans absorb carbon, and that buffers us against climate change. CO2 is absorbed as a gas, and its conversion to organic carbon is dictated by microbes,” Sullivan said. „What we're seeing now is that viruses target very important reactions in these microbial community metabolisms. This means we can start to explore which viruses can be used to convert carbon to the type we want.

„In other words, could this massive ocean buffer be strengthened for carbon sinks to buy time against climate change?”

In 2016, the Tara team determined that ocean carbon sinks are linked to the presence of viruses. Viruses are thought to help sink carbon when virus-infected carbon-processing cells aggregate into large, sticky clumps that fall into the ocean. The researchers developed an AI-based analysis and selected a few „VIP” viruses from thousands of viruses to serve as model systems for culture and marine geoengineering in the laboratory.

This new community metabolism model, developed by Tara Oceans Consortium collaborator Professor Damien Evelard, helps us understand what unintended consequences such an approach could have. Sullivan's lab is taking these marine lessons and using viruses to engineer microbes in human systems to recover from spinal cord injury, improve outcomes for babies born to HIV-infected mothers, fight infection in burn wounds, and more.

„The conversation we're having is, 'How much of this is transferable?'” Professor Sullivan said. Civil, Environmental and Geoengineering. „The overall goal is to engineer microbes toward something we think is useful.”

Virginia is rich

He also reports on early attempts to use phages as geoengineering tools in a completely different ecosystem: permafrost in northern Sweden, where microbes both change the climate and respond to climate change as the frozen soil melts. Virginia is richis an associate professor of microbiology at Ohio State and co-director of National Science Foundation funding EMERGE Biological Integration Institute Based at Ohio State, organizing microbial science at the Sweden field site. Rich previously co-chaired Research It identified a lineage of single-celled organisms as a significant producer of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, in thawing permafrost soils.

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Rich co-organized the AAAS session with Ruth Warner of the University of New Hampshire, who co-directs the EMERGE Institute, which focuses on better understanding how microbes respond to permafrost thaw and the resulting climate interactions.

Sullivan's talk was titled „From Environmental Biology to Microbial Management with Viruses,” and was presented in the session titled „Microbiome-Targeted Environmental Management: Small Players, Big Roles.”

Oceans work is supported by the National Science Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and Tara Oceans, and in addition to NSF, soil work is funded by the Department of Energy and the Grantham Foundation.

/public release. This content, provided by the originating organization/author(s), may be time-specific and edited for clarity, style, and length. Mirage.News does not take corporate positions or sides, and all opinions, positions and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the author(s). Watch in full here.

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