Short description

The main aim of this project is to study and understand the role of diatom viruses in organic matter cycling in coastal seas. This will be performed on a novel host-virus model system based on the potentially toxic diatom Pseudo-nitzschia, which is a globally distributed genus, with an important ecological role. It is widespread, and capable of forming high-biomass blooms. It is thus perceived as one of the most important diatom genera contributing to the biological carbon pump, while some members of the genus produce a potent neurotoxin (domoic acid) that can accumulate in the food chain and eventually even lead to human intoxication. Diatom virus study is in its infancy with the first diatom viruses described in 2004. This project will yield substantial novel data and produce model host-virus systems invaluable in future research.

This is a postdoctoral project financed by Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS).
Project ID: Z14396
Duration: 1.10.2022 – 30.9.2024






What are diatoms?

Diatoms are unicellular photosynthethic organisms (microalgae) inhabiting planet Earths’s oceans and freshwater systems. They are the most diverse unicellular algal group (Malviya et al., 2016) and are responsible for large amounts of carbon (CO  ) capture and storage, making them very important for global climatological cycles. Their chief feature is their silicate frustule (cell housing – see animation left) made from two inequal parts, that cover the cell (protoplast). When diatoms divide, one half of the frusutle goes to each newly formed cell, which on the long run makes the population of cells smaller and smaller. When the population achieves a critical size, they sexually reproduce restoring the original sizes and forming new silicate frustules. 


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What are viruses?

Viruses are biological entities. Most experts say they are non-living, since they do not posses the apparatus that enables them to self replicate independently. Instead, they parasite other cells to hijack their replication apparatus and multiply. In this sense they are greatly reduced and simplified organisms that rely on other organisms for their success. However, the diversity of viruses in enormous. Some resemble cells in that they have lipid membranes, others are restricted to simple genomes encoding just for replication enzymes and structural proteins consisting of their capsids. Most diatom viruses are of this sort. Simple and small single-stranded RNA viruses, which are thought to represent the bulk of the marine virome. Most were never isolated or characterized 

Pseudo-nitzschia calliantha virus

Pseudo-nitzschia calliantha virus