One of the winners of the Baikal Initiative grant competition is Sergey Potapov. He heads a scientific group that is working on the project «Characteristic of Lake Baikal viromes using high-throughput sequencing». Sergey Potapov told us about the relevance of his project and plans for its development.
How did you find out about the contest and why did you decide to participate?
I learned about the Baikal Initiative contest from a colleague and since I am dealing with viruses, and this topic is very relevant today, our scientific team decided to try and send an application for participation.
What is your project about? What is the reason for choosing a topic?
Viruses are the most numerous biological objects on the planet, they are also obligate intracellular parasites that consist of one or two RNA or DNA molecules enclosed in a protein envelope (capsid), some of them have an additional lipid membrane envelope. Viral communities of aquatic ecosystems are represented by viruses of eukaryotes, bacteria and archaea; viruses of the latter two domains are usually called phages. In the aquatic environment, viruses are present both in the form of free particles and inside the host cell. Despite their size (nanometers), these life forms can significantly affect biogeochemical cycles by changing the flows of matter and energy. Bacteriophages, for example, play a key role in regulating the number and composition of microbial communities, causing infection and death of microorganisms.
Why is your project important? What will happen to the results?
In this study, we plan to obtain several gigabases of data, the so-called reads (readings) of the primary structure of genetic material, and using bioinformatic analysis to identify the taxonomic composition of virom (i.e. the entire pool of viral sequences), to determine the dominant taxa of viruses, pathogenic and conditionally pathogenic. Full-genomic sequences of viruses will be collected from the pieces (reeds), which will give important information about the structure of the genome, for example, about the presence of genes that control the metabolism of bacteria during phage infection. The resulting material will be registered in the database and available to other researchers from around the world in comparative analyses, for example, when obtaining new data from other aquatic ecosystems.
In the development of the project, we see an opportunity to compare viromes from different basins of the lake and identify differences, similarities in their composition, assess how the composition changes in the seasonal aspect, affect different layers (from the surface to the bottom).