November 30, 2023

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Researchers found 5500 new RNA virus species in ocean

Researchers found 5500 new RNA virus species in ocean


Researchers found 5500 new RNA virus species in ocean. 

Ocean water samples collected around the world have yielded a treasure trove of new data on RNA viruses, expanding ecological research possibilities and reshaping our understanding of how these small but important submicroscopic particles evolve.

By combining machine learning analysis and traditional evolutionary trees, an international team of researchers has identified 5,500 new RNA virus species – representing all five known RNA virus phyla, additionally noting the need for at least five new RNA virus phyla virus phylum to catch them.


Of these, the most abundant collection of newly identified species belongs to a proposed phylum, which the researchers named Taraviricota, in recognition of the source of the 35,000 water samples that could be analyzed: the Tara Oceans Consortium (Tara Oceans Consortium), which is a An ongoing global study is studying the impact of climate change on the world’s oceans on the Tara brig.


“There’s so much new diversity here — and the entire phylum Taraviricota is found in the ocean, which suggests that they are ecologically very Important. RNA viruses are obviously also very important in our world, but we usually only study a small subset of them – those hundreds of viruses that harm people, plants and animals.

We want to do this on a very large scale system We are lucky to study them here and explore an environment that no one has studied in depth, because almost every species is new and many are truly new.”


The study was published in Science on April 7, 2022.


While microbes are important contributors to all life on Earth, viruses that infect or interact with them have various effects on how microbes function. These types of viruses are thought to have three main functions: killing cells, changing the way infected cells manage energy, and transferring genes from one host to another.


The researchers note that learning more about viral diversity and abundance in the world’s oceans will help explain the role of marine microbes in ocean adaptation to climate change.

The ocean absorbs half of the carbon dioxide produced by humans from the atmosphere, and previous research by the team has shown that marine viruses are the “knob” of biological pumps that affect how carbon is stored in the ocean.


By taking on the challenge of classifying RNA viruses, the group entered the waters of earlier taxonomic work that focused on RNA virus pathogens, but there were still waves. In the biological kingdom Orthornavirae, the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) has recently identified five phyla.


Researchers found 5500 new RNA virus species in ocean


While the team identified hundreds of new RNA virus species that fit these existing divisions, their analysis identified thousands more, which they grouped into five new proposed phyla: Taraviricota, Pomiviricota , Paraxenoviricota, Wamoviricota and Arctiviricota.


Sullivan’s team, which has long cataloged DNA virus species in the ocean, has grown the number from a few thousand in 2015 and 2016 to 200,000 in 2019. For these studies, scientists have access to viral particles to complete the analysis.


In these current efforts to detect RNA viruses, there are no viral particles to study. Instead, the researchers extracted sequences from genes expressed in organisms floating in the sea, and additionally narrowed the analysis to RNA sequences that included a signature gene called RdRp.

The gene is reported to have evolved over billions of years in RNA viruses, but not in other viruses or cells.

Since the existence of RdRp dates back to when life was first discovered on Earth, considering that its sequence position has diverged many times, this means that traditional phylogenetic tree relationships cannot be described by sequence alone.

In response, the team used machine learning to organize 44,000 new sequences to deal with these billion-year-old sequence divergences, in addition to validating the method by showing the technique to accurately classify the sequences of RNA viruses that have already been identified.


“We have to benchmark the known against the unknown. We’ve created a computationally reproducible way to align these sequences, where we can be more confident that we’re aligning positions that accurately reflect evolution,” Sullivan said. He is also a professor of civil, environmental and geodetic engineering, founding director of Ohio’s Microbiome Science Center and a member of the leadership team of the EMERGE Institute for Biointegration.


Further analysis using three-dimensional representation of sequence structures and alignments revealed that the cluster of 5500 new species did not fit into the five existing RNA virus phyla of the kingdom of Orthornavirae.


“We compared our clusters to established, well-established phylogeny-based taxa, which allowed us to We found that we have more clusters than existing ones.”


Overall, these findings allow the researchers to propose not only five new phyla, but at least 11 new orthornaviran-like RNA viruses. The team is preparing a proposal to ask ICTV to formalize the candidate categories and categories.


Zayed said the new data on the extent to which the RdRp genes diverged over time lead to a better understanding of how early life might have evolved on Earth. “RdRp is supposed to be one of the oldest genes — it was there before DNA was needed. So we’re not just tracking the origin of viruses, but the origin of life.”



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