Do viruses exploit cells or do cells also exploit viruses? Viruses may have varying roles that we have hardly begun to discover. This conviction is likely to grow stronger as the evidence for the ubiquity and density of viruses in nature accumulates.
‘Coinage’ of plankton — viruses
BOSTON, March 24 (UPI) — Sea experiments show there’s a constant shuffling of genetic endowments among tiny plankton, say Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers.
The “coinage” the plankton use seems to be a flood of viruses, says researcher Sally W. Chisholm.
The MIT team is uncovering a new facet of evolution that may help scientists see how photosynthesizing microbes manage to exploit changing conditions such as altered light, temperature and nutrients.
“We are beginning to get a picture of gene diversity and gene flow in the most abundant photosynthetic cell on the planet, the Prochlorococcus group of planktonic microbes,” said Chisholm.
The photosynthesizing bacteria “form an important part of the food chain in the oceans, supply some of the oxygen we breathe, and even play a role in modulating climate,” said Chisholm.
“It’s very important that we understand what regulates their populations,” she said. “And now genetic diversity seems to be an important factor.”
The findings are reported in two articles in the Friday issue of Science.