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Viruses may help keep the Earth's oxygen levels high

Oxygen is made possible in part by ocean viruses. The viruses which infect single-celled algae called cyanobacteria, are hyperefficient photosynthesisers thanks to a unique set of genes.

"Previous work had shown that cyanophage viruses have some photosynthesis genes, apparently used to keep the host cyanobacteria on life support during the infection, which otherwise knocks out the cells' basic functions.

Now Oded Béjà from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa says that the cyanophages' photosynthetic proficiency doesn't stop there. While screening DNA sequences in water samples collected during Craig Venter's Global Ocean Sampling Expedition, his team discovered seven more photosynthesis genes coding for a complex of proteins collectively named photosystem I. They believe the viral complex has a unique shape that makes cyanophage photosynthesis hyperefficient."


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