Giant viruses found in the Greenland ice sheet – Green Savers

Investigators They may have found a way to control the growth of ice algae — and perhaps, in the long run, slow some of the melting. Laura Perini, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Aarhus University, and her colleagues discovered giant viruses living alongside algae in ice.

Laura Perini suspects viruses feed on snow algae and may act as a natural control mechanism for algal blooms.

“We don’t know much about viruses, but I think they could be useful in mitigating snowmelt caused by algal blooms. We don’t yet know how specific they are and how effective they are. But by studying them further, we hope to answer some of these questions,” he said. says

Giant viruses were first discovered in 1981, when researchers found them in the ocean. These viruses specialize in infecting green algae in the sea. Later, giant viruses were found in Earth’s soil and even in humans.

But this is the first time giant viruses have lived on the surface of ice and snow, where microalgae dominate, explains Laura Perini.

The way they discovered the viruses was by analyzing all the DNA in the samples they collected. By analyzing this large data set looking for specific marker genes, they found sequences with high similarity to known giant viruses.

To confirm that the viral DNA did not come from long-dead microbes, but from live, active viruses, they extracted all the mRNA from the sample.

When the DNA sequences that make up genes are activated, they are translated into single-stranded fragments called mRNA. These fragments act as recipes for the virus to make the proteins it needs. If they are, the virus is alive.

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“In the total mRNA sequenced from the samples, we found the same markers as in the total DNA, so we knew they were transcribed. This meant the viruses were alive and active in the ice,” he says.

Because giant viruses are a relatively recent discovery, little is known about them. Unlike other viruses, it has many active genes that allow it to repair, copy, transcribe, and translate DNA.

But why this happens and what it is used for is not known.

“We don’t know which hosts the giant viruses infect. Some of them may infect protists, while others attack ice algae. We can’t be sure yet,” says Laura Perini.

Laura Perini is working hard to learn more about giant viruses and more research is coming soon.

“We are continuing to study to learn more about the interactions of giant viruses and their role in the ecosystem. Later this year, we will publish another scientific paper with more information about giant viruses infecting a cultivated microalga that thrives on the ice surface of the Greenland ice sheet,” he concludes.

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