Armed with a catalog of the millions of DNA and RNA virus species in the world’s oceans, scientists are now zeroing in on viruses that help trap carbon dioxide in seawater or using similar techniques. are using different viruses that can cope with climate change. Melting Arctic soil prevents methane escape.

By combining genomic sequence data with artificial intelligence analysis, researchers have identified viruses that live in the ocean and sequenced their genomes to determine whether they borrowed genes from other microbes or cells. “steals” that act on carbon in the ocean. Mapping microbial metabolism genes, including genes for underwater carbon metabolism, revealed 340 known metabolic pathways in the world’s oceans. 128 of them were also found in the marine virus genome.

“I was surprised that the number was so high,” said Matthew Sullivan, professor of microbiology and director of the Center for Microbiome Science at Ohio State University.

After sifting through this huge trove of data through computational advances, the team has now revealed which viruses play a role in carbon metabolism and is using this information in newly developed community metabolic models to It is possible to predict how viruses are being used by the marine microbiome to make better carbon. Occupancy will appear.

“The modeling is about how viruses can turn on or off microbial activity in a system,” Sullivan said. “Community metabolic modeling is telling me the dream data point: which viruses are targeting the most important metabolic pathways, and that matters because it means they’re good levers to move forward.”

Sullivan presented the research today (Feb. 17, 2024) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Denver.

Sullivan was the virus coordinator for the Tara Oceans Consortium, a three-year global study of the effects of climate change on the world’s oceans and the source of 35,000 water samples containing microbial abundance. His lab focuses on phages, viruses that infect bacteria, and their ability to be expanded into engineering frameworks to allow marine microbes to convert carbon into the heaviest organic form that the oceans can produce. will sink into the floor.

“Oceans absorb carbon, and that buffers us against climate change. CO2 is absorbed as a gas, and it’s converted to organic carbon by microbes,” Sullivan said. . “What we’re seeing now is that viruses target the most important reactions in these microbial community metabolisms. This means we can start investigating how carbon can be changed at will. What viruses can be used to

“In other words, can we strengthen this huge ocean buffer to become a carbon sink to buy time against climate change, as it is being accelerated to release that carbon back into the atmosphere?”

In 2016, the TARA team determined that carbon sinks in the oceans were linked to the presence of viruses. It is thought that viruses help sink carbon when virus-infected carbon-processing cells fall to the ocean floor. The researchers developed AI-based analytics to identify thousands of viruses, some of which are “VIP” viruses for culture in the lab and work with model systems for ocean geoengineering.

This new community metabolic modelling, developed by Tara Oceans Consortium Associate Professor Damien Avlard, helps them understand what unintended consequences such an approach might have. Sullivan’s lab is taking these marine lessons learned and applying them to recovery from spinal cord injury, improving outcomes for babies born to mothers with HIV, combating infection in burn wounds, and To do much more is using them to engineer the microbiome in the human environment for use by viruses.

“The conversation we’re having is, ‘How much of this is transferable?'” said Sullivan, who is also a professor of civil, environmental and geodetic engineering. “The overall goal is toward engineering the microbiome that we think is something useful.”

He also reports on early attempts to use phages as geoengineering tools in a completely different ecosystem: permafrost in northern Sweden, where microbes both alter the climate and decompose frozen soil. Also respond to climate change. Virginia Rich, associate professor of microbiology at Ohio State, is co-director of the National Science Foundation-funded EMERGE Biology Integration Institute at Ohio State, which conducts microbiome science at the Swedish field site. Amir also co-led previous research that identified a series of single-celled organisms in thawing permafrost soils as a key producer of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Amir co-organized the AAAS session with Ruth Werner of the University of New Hampshire, who co-directs the EMERGE Institute, which is focused on better understanding how the microbiome affects permafrost thaw. and consequently respond to climate interactions.

Sullivan’s talk was titled “From Ecosystem Biology to Managing the Microbiome with Viruses” and was presented in the session titled “Microbiome-Targeted Ecosystem Management: Small Players, Big Roles.”

Oceans work is supported by the National Science Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and Tara Oceans, and in addition to NSF, soil work is funded by the Department of Energy and the Grantham Foundation.