Metabolic and biogeochemical consequences of viral infection in aquatic ecosystems

Amy E. Zimmerman, Cristina Howard-Varona, David M. Needham, Seth G. John, Alexandra Z. Worden, Matthew B. Sullivan, Jacob R. Waldbauer, Maureen L. Coleman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

175 Scopus citations


Ecosystems are controlled by ‘bottom-up’ (resources) and ‘top-down’ (predation) forces. Viral infection is now recognized as a ubiquitous top-down control of microbial growth across ecosystems but, at the same time, cell death by viral predation influences, and is influenced by, resource availability. In this Review, we discuss recent advances in understanding the biogeochemical impact of viruses, focusing on how metabolic reprogramming of host cells during lytic viral infection alters the flow of energy and nutrients in aquatic ecosystems. Our synthesis revealed several emerging themes. First, viral infection transforms host metabolism, in part through virus-encoded metabolic genes; the functions performed by these genes appear to alleviate energetic and biosynthetic bottlenecks to viral production. Second, viral infection depends on the physiological state of the host cell and on environmental conditions, which are challenging to replicate in the laboratory. Last, metabolic reprogramming of infected cells and viral lysis alter nutrient cycling and carbon export in the oceans, although the net impacts remain uncertain. This Review highlights the need for understanding viral infection dynamics in realistic physiological and environmental contexts to better predict their biogeochemical consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-34
Number of pages14
JournalNature Reviews Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Infectious Diseases


Dive into the research topics of 'Metabolic and biogeochemical consequences of viral infection in aquatic ecosystems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this