Cyanobacteria in freshwater environments respond to a variety of well-studied physical factors as well as changes in the chemistry of their environment. Overlying this is the influence of cyanophages, which persist in thousands per mL and regulate cyanobacterial production, proliferation and diversity. As blooms of toxin-producing species are increasing on a global scale, and evidence is emerging that suggests chronic, low-level exposures to cyanotoxins may be tumorogenic or carcinogenic, it has become critical to develop a basic understanding of the ecological relationship between freshwater cyanobacteria and the viruses that infect them. This project is a coordinated, interdisciplinary lab and field study designed to examine the ecology and diversity of lytic freshwater cyanophages at research sites in the Tennessee River and in one of its tributaries. Augmented by a cruise of opportunity in the western basin of Lake Erie, this study will provide a fundamental insight on the cyanophage-host relationship in freshwaters as well as provide new insight on the role of viruses in the release of cyanotoxins in both lab and natural systems. The laboratory component will further this work by providing insight on the diversity of the lytic cyanophages from these systems. This program of research contains a significant educational component that will train both graduate and undergraduate students (including those from underrepresented groups) in the interdisciplinary aspects of microbial ecology, limnology and molecular biology. The final scientific product of this study will be information that will enhance our understanding of cyanobacterial proliferation and cyanophage dynamics in freshwater systems. It will provide a critical insight on the role of viruses in the flux of toxins into the
dissolved phase of potable water supplies. It will also serve to provide broader information for those interested in water management for both consumable and recreational activities.
Viral Influence on Freshwater Cyanobacteria and Toxin Dynamics