Marine Science Faculty Publications

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single-stranded, phage, virus, gokushovirus, Microviridae

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The small single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) bacteriophages of the subfamily Gokushovirinae were traditionally perceived as narrowly targeted, niche-specific viruses infecting obligate parasitic bacteria, such as Chlamydia. The advent of metagenomics revealed gokushoviruses to be widespread in global environmental samples. This study expands knowledge of gokushovirus diversity in the environment by developing a degenerate PCR assay to amplify a portion of the major capsid protein (MCP) gene of gokushoviruses. Over 500 amplicons were sequenced from 10 environmental samples (sediments, sewage, seawater and freshwater), revealing the ubiquity and high diversity of this understudied phage group. Residue-level conservation data generated from multiple alignments was combined with a predicted 3D structure, revealing a tendency for structurally internal residues to be more highly conserved than surface-presenting protein–protein or viral–host interaction domains. Aggregating this data set into a phylogenetic framework, many gokushovirus MCP clades contained samples from multiple environments, although distinct clades dominated the different samples. Antarctic sediment samples contained the most diverse gokushovirus communities, whereas freshwater springs from Florida were the least diverse. Whether the observed diversity is being driven by environmental factors or host-binding interactions remains an open question. The high environmental diversity of this previously overlooked ssDNA viral group necessitates further research elucidating their natural hosts and exploring their ecological roles.

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The ISME Journal, v. 8, p. 2093-2103

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