Characterization of blf4, an archaeal lytic virus targeting a member of the methanomicrobiales

Weidenbach, Katrin; Wolf, Sandro; Kupczok, Anne; Kern, Tobias; Fischer, Martin A.; Reetz, Jochen; Urbańska, Natalia; Künzel, Sven; Schmitz, Ruth A.; Rother, Michael


Today, the number of known viruses infecting methanogenic archaea is limited. Here, we report on a novel lytic virus, designated Blf4, and its host strain Methanoculleus bourgensis E02.3, a methanogenic archaeon belonging to the Methanomicrobiales, both isolated from a commercial biogas plant in Germany. The virus consists of an icosahedral head 60 nm in diameter and a long non-contractile tail of 125 nm in length, which is consistent with the new isolate belonging to the Siphoviridae family. Electron microscopy revealed that Blf4 attaches to the vegetative cells of M. bourgensis E02.3 as well as to cellular appendages. Apart from M. bourgensis E02.3, none of the tested Methanoculleus strains were lysed by Blf4, indicating a narrow host range. The complete 37 kb dsDNA genome of Blf4 contains 63 open reading frames (ORFs), all organized in the same transcriptional direction. For most of the ORFs, potential functions were predicted. In addition, the genome of the host M. bourgensis E02.3 was sequenced and assembled, resulting in a 2.6 Mbp draft genome consisting of nine contigs. All genes required for a hydrogenotrophic lifestyle were predicted. A CRISPR/Cas system (type I-U) was identified with six spacers directed against Blf4, indicating that this defense system might not be very efficient in fending off invading Blf4 virus.