Curtis Suttle

Faculty Profile

Faculty Profile

Photo by: Elaine Simons Lane
Professor

The biology of viruses that infect marine phytoplankton and bacteria, and the role of these viruses in population dynamics and geochemical cycles.

B.Sc., Ph.D., UBC; 
Coastal Marine Scholar SUNY StonyBrook 1987-88; 
Assist/Assoc Professor, Univ. Texas at Austin 1988-96.

Contact Information

Office Rm 346/Lab Rm 386 Beaty Biodiversity Centre
604-822-8610
604-827-5715
csuttle@eos.ubc.ca

Research Interests

There has been increasing interest in the biology and ecology of viruses and other pathogens that infect microalgae. Viruses that infect bacteria and phytoplankton play a key role in the dynamics of organisms and nutrients in marine and freshwater ecosystems, and consequently also affect nutrient and energy cycling. A primary research focus of my laboratory is to understand the biology and ecology of viruses that infect microalgae and cyanobacteria. Research interests include 1) discerning the effect of viruses on primary productivity and phytoplankton population dynamics; 2) isolating and characterizing novel viruses from marine environments; 3) developing molecular approaches for enumerating and identifying viruses; 4) determining the temporal and spatial distribution of specific viruses; 5) identifying mechanisms regulating viral abundance in nature; and 6) understanding the biology of these viruses and the infection process and exploring the molecular evolution and genetic diversity of viruses in nature.

As part of these studies, we have isolated viruses that infect ecologically important phytoplankton and cyanobacteria including toxic bloom formers. We have developed PCR primers specific for the DNA polymerase genes of viruses that infect microalgae. These primers have been used to amplify DNA from a number of different viruses infecting marine phytoplankton, as well as from natural virus communities. Sequence analysis indicates that these viruses belong to a single family, and are most closely related to herpes viruses. These viruses can occur in seawater at concentrations > 105 ml-1. Viruses that infect cyanobacteria occur at even higher concentrations, and 106 infectious units ml-1, can be found in some coastal waters. Our research will continue to investigate the role of viruses in aquatic ecosystems.

Team Members

Alex Culley (Graduate Student) 
James Rossi (Graduate Student) 
Amy Chan (Research Scientist)

Selected Publications

Suttle, CA. 2000. The ecological, evolutionary and geochemical consequences of viral infection of cyanobacteria and eukaryotic algae. In Viral Ecology, CJ Hurst (ed.), Academic (in press).

Suttle, CA. 2000. Cyanophages and their role in the ecology of cyanobacteria. In The Ecology of Cyanobacteria: Their Diversity in Time and Space, BA Whitton & M Potts (eds.), Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston (in press).

Suttle, C.A. 2001. Community Structure: Viruses Chapter 32 (pp. 364-370) in Manual of Environmental Microbiology (2nd ed), C.J. Hurst, G.R. Knudson, M.J. McInerney, L.D. Stezenbach and M.V. Walter (eds.), ASM Press, Wash DC

Suttle, C.A. 2000. Cyanophages and their role in the ecology of cyanobacteria. Chapter 20 (pp. 563-589 in The Ecology of Cyanobacteria: Their Diversity in Time and Space, B.A. Whitton and M. Potts (eds.), Kluwer Academic Publ, Boston

Suttle, C.A. 2000. The ecological, evolutionary and geochemical consequences of viral infection of cyanobacteria and eukaryotic algae. Chapter 6 (pp. 248-286) in Viral Ecology, C.J. Hurst (ed.), Academic Press, London, 639 pp.

Short, S.M. and C.A. Suttle. 2002. Sequence analysis of marine virus communities reveals groups of related algal viruses are widely distribute in nature Applied and Environmental Microbiology (accepted December 2001)

Ortmann, A.C., J.E. Lawrence and C.A. Suttle. 2002. Lytic viral production and lysogeny in heterotrophic bacterial and cyanobacterial communities Microbial Ecology (accepted November 2001)

Lawrence, J.E., A.M. Chan and C.A. Suttle. 2002. Viruses causing lysis of the toxic bloom-forming alga, Heterosigma akashiwo (Raphidophyceae), are widespread in coastal sediments of British Columbia, Canada. Limnology and Oceanography (accepted October 2001)

Wilhelm, S.W., S.M. Brigden and C.A. Suttle. 2002. Direct measurements of viral production in stratified and tidally mixed waters in the Strait of Georgia. Microbial Ecology (accepted September 2001)

Lawrence, J.E., A.M. Chan and C.A. Suttle. 2001. Characterization of a novel virus causing the lysis of the toxic bloom-forming alga, Heterosigma akashiwo. Journal of Phycology 37:216-222

Short, SM & CA Suttle. 2000. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis resolves virus sequences amplified with degenerate primers. BioTechniques 28:20-26.

Short, SM & CA Suttle. 1999. Use of the polymerase chain reaction and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis to study diversity in natural virus communities. Hydrobiologia 401: 19-33.

Suttle, CA. 1999. Do viruses control the oceans? Natural History 108: 48-51.

Wilhelm, SW & CA Suttle. 1999. Microbes, viruses, and nutrient cycles in the sea. Bioscience 49: 781-788.

Garza, DR & CA Suttle. 1998. The effect of cyanophages on the mortality of Synechococcus spp. and selection for UV-resistant viral communities. Microbial Ecology 36: 281-292.