Genomic Characterization of a Novel Phage Found in Black Abalone (Haliotis cracherodii) Infected with Withering Syndrome

Collin J Closek1,2, Stanley Langevin2, Colleen A Burge1, Lisa Crosson2, Samuel White2 and Carolyn S Friedman2, (1)University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, Baltimore, MD, United States, (2)University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Withering syndrome (WS), caused by the bacterium Candidatus Xenohaliotis californiensis, a Rickettsia-like organism (RLO), infects many species of abalone. Black abalone (Haliotis cracherodii), one of two endangered species of abalone, has experienced high population losses along the California coast due to WSRecently, we observed reduced pathogenicity and mortality events in RLO-infected abalone when a novel bacteriophage (phage) was also present. To better understand phage-bacterium dynamics and develop more informative diagnostic tools, we sequenced the genome of the novel phage associated with the RLO responsible for WS. Metagenomic sequencing libraries were prepared with extracted genomic DNA from two experimentally infected H. cracherodii and phage sequences were enriched using hydroxyapatite chromatography normalization. Normalized libraries were individually barcoded and sequenced with Illumina MiSeq. Raw sequence reads were processed using VIrominer and de novo assembly produced one single phage-like contig (35.7Kb) from the experimentally infected abalone. This highly divergent genome had closest homology with a virus associated with abalone shriveling syndrome (SS). Of the 34 predicted ORFs, overlapping homology with the SS virus ranged from 20-72%, demonstrating the phage sequenced is genetically distinct from any known phage. The phage-like sequences represented a significant portion of the total reads sequenced (~2 million of the 12 million paired-end reads; 17%) and we obtained 94,000X coverage across the novel phage genome. Beyond characterization of this novel phage, which appears to reduce pathogenicity of the RLOthe genome enabled us to develop quantitative PCR and in situ hybridization assays as diagnostic tools. These tools allow us to detect and quantify this phage in the endangered H. cracherodii.