Breaking the Ice: A Review of Phages in Polar Ecosystems

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: This is version 2 of this Preprint.

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Mara Elena Heinrichs, Gonçalo J Piedade, Ovidiu Popa, Pacifica Sommers, Gareth Trubl, Julia Weissenbach, Janina Rahlff


Bacteriophages, or phages, are viruses that infect and replicate within bacterial hosts, playing a significant role in regulating microbial populations and ecosystem dynamics. However, phages from extreme environments such as polar regions remain relatively understudied due to challenges like restricted ecosystem access and low biomass. Understanding the diversity, structure, and functions of polar phages is crucial for advancing our knowledge of the microbial ecology and biogeochemistry of these environments. In this review, we will explore the current state of knowledge on phages from the Arctic and Antarctic, focusing on insights gained from -omic studies, phage isolation, and virus-like particle abundance data. Metagenomic studies of polar environments have revealed a high diversity of phages with unique genetic characteristics, providing insights into their evolutionary and ecological roles. Phage isolation studies have identified novel phage-host interactions and contributed to the discovery of new phage species. Virus-like particle abundance and lysis rate data, on the other hand, have highlighted the importance of phages in regulating bacterial populations and nutrient cycling in polar environments. Overall, this review aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge about polar phages, and by synthesizing these different sources of information, we can better understand the diversity, dynamics, and functions of polar phages in the context of ongoing climate change, which will help to predict how polar ecosystems and residing phages may respond to future environmental perturbations.



Biodiversity, Biology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences, Marine Biology, Microbiology


Host, Host, Cryoconite holes, Permafrost, VLP, AMG, Cold adaptation, Cryosphere, Arctic, Antarctic, Viruses, Cryoconite holes, Permafrost, VLP, AMG, Cold adaptation, Cryosphere, Arctic, Antarctic


Published: 2023-05-28 13:41

Last Updated: 2023-11-20 14:14

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CC-By Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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