Using hijacked genes, the infectious agents help bacteria generate energy
In the deep, dark ocean, viruses have won safe harbor through thievery.
With stolen genes that make sulfur-digesting enzymes, viruses provide metabolic backup to bacteria feasting on the sulfur plumes of hydrothermal vents, researchers propose May 1 in Science. In return, the viruses secure a host in the harsh depths of the sea.
Though the oceans are rife with bacteria-infecting viruses, called bacteriophage, researchers know little about the ones that invade sulfur-oxidizing bacteria. These bacteria are key sources of energy for organisms that live in hydrothermal vents. But the bacteria are difficult to study because they don’t grow in labs.