Development of a real-time PCR assay for the quantification of Ma-LMM01-typeMicrocystiscyanophages in a natural pond

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Microcystis aeruginosa forms toxic cyanobacterial blooms throughout the world where its infectious phages are thought to influence host population dynamics. To assess the cyanophage impact on the host dynamics, we previously monitored Ma-LMM01-type phage abundance using a real-time PCR with a primer set designed based on the sequence of Microcystis phage Ma-LMM01; and we estimated the phage-infected host cell abundance. However, a recent study shows the Ma-LMM01 g91 gene sequence belongs to the smallest group, group III, of the three genotype groups, suggesting Ma-LMM01-type phage abundance was underestimated. Therefore, to re-evaluate the effect of Ma-LMM01-type phages on their hosts, we monitored the abundance of Ma-LMM01-type phages using real-time PCR with a new primer set designed based on the sequences of genotype groups I–III. We found phage abundance between 103 and 104 ml−1 using the new primer set in samples where previously these phages were not detected using the old primer set. The frequency of Ma-LMM01-type phage-infected cells to Ma-LMM01-type phage-susceptible host cells may be as high as 30%, suggesting the phages may occasionally affect not only shifts in the genetic composition but also the dynamics of Ma-LMM01-type phage-susceptible host populations.Significance and Impact of the StudyPhages are one of the factors that may control the ecology of their host blooms. Therefore, it is essential to estimate phage abundance to understand phage impact on host populations. A real-time PCR assay was improved to detect a larger range of Microcystis cyanophages in natural surroundings where no phages were detected using a previous method by re-designing a new primer set based on sequences from three Ma-LMM01-type phage genetic groups. The new method allows us to determine the distribution, dynamics and infection cycle of the phage to help understand the interaction between the phages and the hosts.

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