Differentiation and structure in Sulfolobus islandicus rod-shaped virus populations

Maria A. Bautista, Jesse A. Black, Nicholas D. Youngblut, Rachel J. Whitaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the past decade, molecular surveys of viral diversity have revealed that viruses are the most diverse and abundant biological entities on Earth. In culture, however, most viral isolates that infect microbes are represented by a few variants isolated on type strains, limiting our ability to study how natural variation affects virus-host interactions in the laboratory. We screened a set of 137 hot spring samples for viruses that infect a geographically diverse panel of the hyperthemophilic crenarchaeon Sulfolobus islandicus. We isolated and characterized eight SIRVs (Sulfolobus islandicus rod-shaped viruses) from two different regions within Yellowstone National Park (USA). Comparative genomics revealed that all SIRV sequenced isolates share 30 core genes that represent 50-60% of the genome. The core genome phylogeny, as well as the distribution of variable genes (shared by some but not all SIRVs) and the signatures of host-virus interactions recorded on the CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) repeat-spacer arrays of S. islandicus hosts, identify different SIRV lineages, each associated with a different geographic location. Moreover, our studies reveal that SIRV core genes do not appear to be under diversifying selection and thus we predict that the abundant and diverse variable genes govern the coevolutionary arms race between SIRVs and their hosts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number120
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 19 2017


  • Archaeal virus
  • Host-virus interactions
  • Sulfolobus islandicus rod-shaped virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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