Interrogating marine virus-host interactions and elemental transfer with BONCAT and nanoSIMS-based methods

Alexis L. Pasulka, Kimberlee Thamatrakoln, Sebastian H. Kopf, Yunbin Guan, Bonnie Poulos, Annie Moradian, Michael J. Sweredoski, Sonja Hess, Mathew B. Sullivan, Kay D. Bidle, Victoria J. Orphan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


While the collective impact of marine viruses has become more apparent over the last decade, a deeper understanding of virus-host dynamics and the role of viruses in nutrient cycling would benefit from direct observations at the single-virus level. We describe two new complementary approaches – stable isotope probing coupled with nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (nanoSIMS) and fluorescence-based biorthogonal non-canonical amino acid tagging (BONCAT) – for studying the activity and biogeochemical influence of marine viruses. These tools were developed and tested using several ecologically relevant model systems (Emiliania huxleyi/EhV207, Synechococcus sp. WH8101/Syn1 and Escherichia coli/T7). By resolving carbon and nitrogen enrichment in viral particles, we demonstrate the power of nanoSIMS tracer experiments in obtaining quantitative estimates for the total number of viruses produced directly from a particular production pathway (by isotopically labelling host substrates). Additionally, we show through laboratory experiments and a pilot field study that BONCAT can be used to directly quantify viral production (via epifluorescence microscopy) with minor sample manipulation and no dependency on conversion factors. This technique can also be used to detect newly synthesized viral proteins. Together these tools will help fill critical gaps in our understanding of the biogeochemical impact of viruses in the ocean.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)671-692
Number of pages22
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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