Reef invertebrate viromics: Diversity, host specificity and functional capacity

Patrick W. Laffy, Elisha M. Wood-Charlson, Dmitrij Turaev, Sabrina Jutz, Cecilia Pascelli, Emmanuelle S. Botté, Sara C. Bell, Tyler E. Peirce, Karen D. Weynberg, Madeleine J.H. van Oppen, Thomas Rattei, Nicole S. Webster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Recent metagenomic analyses have revealed a high diversity of viruses in the pelagic ocean and uncovered clear habitat-specific viral distribution patterns. Conversely, similar insights into the composition, host specificity and function of viruses associated with marine organisms have been limited by challenges associated with sampling and computational analysis. Here, we performed targeted viromic analysis of six coral reef invertebrate species and their surrounding seawater to deliver taxonomic and functional profiles of viruses associated with reef organisms. Sponges and corals' host species-specific viral assemblages with low sequence identity to known viral genomes. While core viral genes involved in capsid formation, tail structure and infection mechanisms were observed across all reef samples, auxiliary genes including those involved in herbicide resistance and viral pathogenesis pathways such as host immune suppression were differentially enriched in reef hosts. Utilising a novel OTU based assessment, we also show a prevalence of dsDNA viruses belonging to the Mimiviridae, Caudovirales and Phycodnaviridae in reef environments and further highlight the abundance of ssDNA viruses belonging to the Circoviridae, Parvoviridae, Bidnaviridae and Microviridae in reef invertebrates. These insights into coral reef viruses provide an important framework for future research into how viruses contribute to the health and evolution of reef organisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2125-2141
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes

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