Schrödinger’s cheshire cat: Are haploid Emiliania huxleyi cells resistant to viral infection or not?

Gideon J. Mordecai, Frederic Verret, Andrea Highfield, Declan C. Schroeder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Emiliania huxleyi is the main calcite producer on Earth and is routinely infected by a virus (EhV); a double stranded DNA (dsDNA) virus belonging to the family Phycodnaviridae. E. huxleyi exhibits a haplodiploid life cycle; the calcified diploid stage is non-motile and forms extensive blooms. The haploid phase is a non-calcified biflagellated cell bearing organic scales. Haploid cells are thought to resist infection, through a process deemed the “Cheshire Cat” escape strategy; however, a recent study detected the presence of viral lipids in the same haploid strain. Here we report on the application of an E. huxleyi CCMP1516 EhV-86 combined tiling array (TA) that further confirms an EhV infection in the RCC1217 haploid strain, which grew without any signs of cell lysis. Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and PCR verified the presence of viral RNA in the haploid cells, yet indicated an absence of viral DNA, respectively. These infected cells are an alternative stage of the virus life cycle deemed the haplococcolithovirocell. In this instance, the host is both resistant to and infected by EhV, i.e., the viral transcriptome is present in haploid cells whilst there is no evidence of viral lysis. This superimposed state is reminiscent of Schrödinger’s cat; of being simultaneously both dead and alive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number51
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 18 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Declan Schroeder was funded by an Marine Biological Association (MBA) research fellowship. A special thanks to Cecilia Balestreri for the electron micrograph images used in Figure 6.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • EhV
  • Emiliania huxleyi
  • Phycodnaviridae
  • Tiling array
  • Transcriptome
  • Virus


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