Endogenous giant viruses shape intraspecies genomic variability in the model green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii


Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is an important eukaryotic alga that has been studied as a model organism for decades. Despite extensive history as a model system, phylogenetic and genetic characteristics of viruses infecting this alga have remained elusive. We analyzed high-throughput genome sequence data of numerous C. reinhardtii isolates, and in six strains we discovered endogenous genomes of giant viruses reaching over several hundred kilobases in length. In addition, we have also discovered the entire genome of a closely related giant virus that is endogenized within the genome of Chlamydomonas incerta, one of the closest sequenced phylogenetic relatives of C. reinhardtii. Endogenous giant viruses add hundreds of new gene families to the host strains, highlighting their contribution to the pangenome dynamics and inter-strain genomic variability of C. reinhardtii. Our findings suggest that endogenization of giant viruses can have profound implications in shaping the population dynamics and ecology of protists in the environment.

Mohammad 'Monir' Moniruzzaman
Mohammad 'Monir' Moniruzzaman
Assistant Professor of Marine Biology and Ecology