Virus-induced dormancy in the archaeon Sulfolobus islandicus

Maria A. Bautista, Changyi Zhang, Rachel J. Whitaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigated the interaction between Sulfolobus spindle-shaped virus (SSV9) and its native archaeal host Sulfolobus islandicus. We show that upon exposure to SSV9, S. islandicus strain RJW002 has a significant growth delay where the majority of cells are dormant (viable but not growing) for 24 to 48 hours postinfection (hpi) compared to the growth of controls without virus. We demonstrate that in this system, dormancy (i) is induced by both active and inactive virus particles at a low multiplicity of infection (MOI), (ii) is reversible in strains with active CRISPR-Cas immunity that prevents the establishment of productive infections, and (iii) results in dramatic and rapid host death if virus persists in the culture even at low levels. Our results add a new dimension to evolutionary models of virus-host interactions, showing that the mere presence of a virus induces host cell stasis and death independent of infection. This novel, highly sensitive, and risky bet-hedging antiviral response must be integrated into models of virus-host interactions in this system so that the true ecological impact of viruses can be predicted and understood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere02565-14
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 31 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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