Correlation between viral production and carbon mineralization under nitrate-reducing conditions in aquifer sediment

Donald Pan, Rachel Watson, Dake Wang, Zheng Huan Tan, Daniel D. Snow, Karrie A. Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


A variety of microbially mediated metabolic pathways impact biogeochemical cycling in terrestrial subsurface environments. However, the role that viruses have in influencing microbial mortality and microbial community structure is poorly understood. Here we investigated the production of viruses and change in microbial community structure within shallow alluvial aquifer sediment slurries amended with 13 C-labeled acetate and nitrate. Biostimulation resulted in production of viruses concurrent with acetate oxidation, 13 CO 2 production and nitrate reduction. Interestingly, change in viral abundance was positively correlated to acetate consumption (r 2 =0.6252, P<0.05) and 13 CO 2 production (r 2 =0.6572, P<0.05); whereas change in cell abundance was not correlated to acetate consumption or 13 CO 2 production. Viral-mediated cell lysis has implications for microbial community structure. Betaproteobacteria predominated microbial community composition (62% of paired-end reads) upon inoculation but decreased in relative abundance and was negatively correlated to changes in viral abundance (r 2 =0.5036, P<0.05). As members of the Betaproteobacteria decreased, Gammaproteobacteria, specifically Pseudomonas spp., increased in relative abundance (82% of paired-end reads) and was positively correlated with the change in viral abundance (r 2 =0.5368, P<0.05). A nitrate-reducing bacterium, Pseudomonas sp. strain Alda10, was isolated from these sediments and produced viral-like particles with a filamentous morphology that did not result in cell lysis. Together, these results indicate that viruses are linked to carbon biogeochemistry and community structure in terrestrial subsurface sediments. The subsequent cell lysis has the potential to alter available carbon pools in subsurface environments, additionally controlling microbial community structure from the bottom-up.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1691-1703
Number of pages13
JournalISME Journal
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • carbon cycle
  • nitrate
  • subsurface microbial ecology
  • viruses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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