Virocell Metabolism: Metabolic Innovations During Host–Virus Interactions in the Ocean

Shilo Rosenwasser, Carmit Ziv, Shiri Graff van Creveld, Assaf Vardi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


Marine viruses are considered to be major ecological, evolutionary, and biogeochemical drivers of the marine environment, responsible for nutrient recycling and determining species composition. Viruses can re-shape their host's metabolic network during infection, generating the virocell–a unique metabolic state that supports their specific requirement. Here we discuss the concept of ‘virocell metabolism’ and its formation by rewiring of host-encoded metabolic networks, or by introducing virus-encoded auxiliary metabolic genes which provide the virocell with novel metabolic capabilities. The ecological role of marine viruses is commonly assessed by their relative abundance and phylogenetic diversity, lacking the ability to assess the dynamics of active viral infection. The new ability to define a unique metabolic state of the virocell will expand the current virion-centric approaches in order to quantify the impact of marine viruses on microbial food webs.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)821-832
Number of pages12
JournalTrends in Microbiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016


  • auxiliary metabolic genes
  • cyanophages
  • host–virus coevolution
  • large dsDNA viruses
  • marine viruses
  • metabolic networks
  • virocell phytoplankton


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