First evidence of virus-like particles in the bacterial symbionts of Bryozoa

A.E. Vishnyakov, N.P. Karagodina, G. Lim-Fong, P.A. Ivanov, T.F. Schwaha, A.V. Letarov, A.N. Ostrovsky

Research outputpeer-review


Bacteriophage communities associated with humans and vertebrate animals have been extensively studied, but the data on phages living in invertebrates remain scarce. In fact, they have never been reported for most animal phyla. Our ultrastructural study showed for the first time a variety of virus-like particles (VLPs) and supposed virus-related structures inside symbiotic bacteria in two marine species from the phylum Bryozoa, the cheilostomes Bugula neritina and Paralicornia sinuosa. We also documented the effect of VLPs on bacterial hosts: we explain different bacterial ‘ultrastructural types’ detected in bryozoan tissues as stages in the gradual destruction of prokaryotic cells caused by viral multiplication during the lytic cycle. We speculate that viruses destroying bacteria regulate symbiont numbers in the bryozoan hosts, a phenomenon known in some insects. We develop two hypotheses explaining exo- and endogenous circulation of the viruses during the life-cycle of B. neritina. Finally, we compare unusual ‘sea-urchin’-like structures found in the collapsed bacteria in P. sinuosa with so-called metamorphosis associated contractile structures (MACs) formed in the cells of the marine bacterium Pseudoalteromonas luteoviolacea which are known to trigger larval metamorphosis in a polychaete worm.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Number of pages44
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Virology

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