Impaired viral infection and reduced mortality of diatoms in iron-limited oceanic regions

Chana F. Kranzler, Mark A. Brzezinski, Natalie R. Cohen, Robert H. Lampe, Michael Maniscalco, Claire P. Till, James Mack, Jason R. Latham, Kenneth W. Bruland, Benjamin S. Twining, Adrian Marchetti, Kimberlee Thamatrakoln

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Diatom primary productivity is tightly coupled with carbon export through the ballasted nature of the silica-based cell wall, linking the oceanic silicon and carbon cycles. However, despite low productivity, iron (Fe)-limited regimes are considered ‘hot spots’ of diatom silica burial with enhanced carbon export efficiency, raising questions about the mechanisms driving the biogeochemistry of these regions. Marine viruses are classically recognized as catalysts of remineralization through host lysis, short-circuiting the trophic transfer of carbon and facilitating the retention of dissolved organic matter and associated elements in the surface ocean. Here we used metatranscriptomic analysis of diatoms and associated viruses, along with a suite of physiological and geochemical metrics, to study the interaction between diatoms and viruses in Fe-limited regimes of the northeast Pacific. We found low cell-associated diatom virus diversity and abundance in a chronically Fe-limited region of the subarctic northeast Pacific. In a coastal upwelling region of the California Current, transient iron limitation also substantially reduced viral replication. These observations were recapitulated in Fe-limited cultures of the bloom-forming, centric diatom, Chaetoceros tenuissimus, which exhibited delayed virus-mediated mortality in addition to reduced viral replication. We suggest Fe-limited diatoms escape viral lysis and subsequent remineralization in the surface ocean, providing an additional mechanism contributing to enhanced carbon export efficiency and silica burial in Fe-limited oceanic regimes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-237
Number of pages7
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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