Unmasking cellular response of a bloomforming alga to viral infection by resolving expression profiles at a single-cell level

Shilo Rosenwasser, Uri Sheyn, Miguel J. Frada, David Pilzer, Ron Rotkopf, Assaf Vardi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Infection by large dsDNA viruses can lead to a profound alteration of host transcriptome and metabolome in order to provide essential building blocks to support the high metabolic demand for viral assembly and egress. Host response to viral infection can typically lead to diverse phenotypic outcome that include shift in host life cycle and activation of anti-viral defense response. Nevertheless, there is a major bottleneck to discern between viral hijacking strategies and host defense responses when averaging bulk population response. Here we study the interaction between Emiliania huxleyi, a bloom-forming alga, and its specific virus (EhV), an ecologically important host-virus model system in the ocean. We quantified host and virus gene expression on a single-cell resolution during the course of infection, using automatic microfluidic setup that captures individual algal cells and multiplex quantitate PCR. We revealed high heterogeneity in viral gene expression among individual cells. Simultaneous measurements of expression profiles of host and virus genes at a single-cell level allowed mapping of infected cells into newly defined infection states and allowed detection specific host response in a subpopulation of infected cell which otherwise masked by the majority of the infected population. Intriguingly, resistant cells emerged during viral infection, showed unique expression profiles of metabolic genes which can provide the basis for discerning between viral resistant and susceptible cells within heterogeneous populations in the marine environment. We propose that resolving host-virus arms race at a single-cell level will provide important mechanistic insights into viral life cycles and will uncover host defense strategies.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere1007708
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Rosenwasser et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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