Most living organisms exhibit diurnal rhythms as an adaptation to the daily light-dark (diel) cycle. However, diurnal rhythms have not been found in viruses. Here, we studied the diel infection patterns of bacteriophages infecting the unicellular cyanobacteria Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus, which are the most abundant photosynthetic organisms in the oceans. With lab cultures, we found that cyanophages used three infection strategies in the dark: no adsorption, adsorption but no replication, and replication. Interestingly, the former two exhibited rhythmic infection patterns under light-dark cycles. We further showed in the South China Sea and the Western Pacific Ocean that cyanophage abundances varied rhythmically, with a peak at night. Moreover, diel transcriptional rhythms of many cyanophage genes were found in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, which also peaked at night. Our results suggested that cyanophage infection of Prochlorococcus is synchronized to the light-dark cycle, which may result in a synchronized release of dissolved organic matter to the marine food web.
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