Morphological characterization of virus-like particles in coral reef sponges

Cecília Pascelli*, Patrick W. Laffy, Marija Kupresanin, Timothy Ravasi, Nicole S. Webster

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Marine sponges host complex microbial consortia that vary in their abundance, diversity and stability amongst host species. While our understanding of spongemicrobe interactions has dramatically increased over the past decade, little is known about how sponges and their microbial symbionts interact with viruses, the most abundant entities in the ocean. In this study, we employed three transmission electron microscopy (TEM) preparation methods to provide the first comprehensive morphological assessment of sponge-associated viruses. The combined approaches revealed 50 different morphologies of viral-like particles (VLPs) represented across the different sponge species. VLPs were visualized within sponge cells, within the sponge extracellular mesohyl matrix, on the sponge ectoderm and within sponge-associated microbes. Non-enveloped, non-tailed icosahedral VLPs were the most commonly observed morphotypes, although tailed bacteriophage, brick-shaped, geminate and filamentous VLPs were also detected. Visualization of sponge-associated viruses using TEM has confirmed that sponges harbor not only diverse communities of microorganisms but also diverse communities of viruses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere5625
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Nicole S. Webster was funded through an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship FT120100480 and Cecília Pascelli was funded through a PhD Scholarship from The CAPES Foundation and Science without Borders. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Funding Information:
The following grant information was disclosed by the authors: Australian Research Council Future Fellowship: FT120100480. The CAPES Foundation and Science.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Pascelli et al.


  • GBR
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Marine sponges
  • Red Sea
  • TEM
  • Transmission Electron Microscopy
  • VLP
  • Virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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