Rohwer Wegley-Kelly Lab

Linda Wegley Kelly, PhD


Linda Wegley-Kelly, PhD

  • Ph.D., Cell & Molecular Biology JDP, San Diego State University, 2013
  • B.S., Biology, San Diego State University, 2004 


  • Adjunct Assistant Research Professor, 2014 – present
  • Postdoctoral Researcher – San Diego State University, Department of Biology, 2013 – 2014
  • Doctoral Student – San Diego State University, Department of Biology, 2008 – 2013
  • Thesis advisor: Dr. Forest Rohwer, Marine microbiology and genomics

Awards and Honors

  • Biotechnology Student Travel Award, CSUPERB (2007).
  • International Travel Scholarship, College of Sciences SDSU (2005).
  • Student Travel Scholarship, CSUPERB (2003).

Professional Experience

  • Lab manager and research technician, 2002-present
  • San Diego State University, Forest Rohwer lab


Lecturer – San Diego State University, Department of Biology, 2011 – present

  • Courses 
  • Biol 350 – General Microbiology, Fall 2011, 2012, 2014

Teaching Assistant – San Diego State University, Department of Biology, 2009 – 2011

  • Courses
  • Advanced Cell and Molecular Biol. Lab, Spring 2009 
  • Intro to Cell and Molecular Biol. Lab, Spring 2010 and 2011

Curriculum vitae

Download Dr. Wegley-Kelly's complete CV (download PDF).


  • Rodriguez-Brito B, Li L, Wegley L, Furlan M, Angly F, Breitbart M, Buchanan J, Desnues C, Dinsdale E, Edwards R, Felts B, Haynes M, Liu H, Lipson D, Mahaffy J, Martin-Cuadrado AB, Mira A, Nulton J, Pasić L, Rayhawk S, Rodriguez-Mueller J, Rodriguez-Valera F, Salamon P, Srinagesh S, Thingstad TF, Tran T, Thurber RV, Willner D, Youle M, Rohwer F (2010) Viral and microbial community dynamics in four aquatic environments. ISME J 4(6):739-51 View Abstract · Pubmed Record
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    The species composition and metabolic potential of microbial and viral communities are predictable and stable for most ecosystems. This apparent stability contradicts theoretical models as well as the viral-microbial dynamics observed in simple ecosystems, both of which show Kill-the-Winner behavior causing cycling of the dominant taxa. Microbial and viral metagenomes were obtained from four human-controlled aquatic environments at various time points separated by one day to >1 year. These environments were maintained within narrow geochemical bounds and had characteristic species composition and metabolic potentials at all time points. However, underlying this stability were rapid changes at the fine-grained level of viral genotypes and microbial strains. These results suggest a model wherein functionally redundant microbial and viral taxa are cycling at the level of viral genotypes and virus-sensitive microbial strains. Microbial taxa, viral taxa, and metabolic function persist over time in stable ecosystems and both communities fluctuate in a Kill-the-Winner manner at the level of viral genotypes and microbial strains.

  • Angly FE, Willner D, Prieto-Davó A, Edwards RA, Schmieder R, Vega-Thurber R, Antonopoulos DA, Barott K, Cottrell MT, Desnues C, Dinsdale EA, Furlan M, Haynes M, Henn MR, Hu Y, Kirchman DL, McDole T, McPherson JD, Meyer F, Miller RM, Mundt E, Naviaux RK, Rodriguez-Mueller B, Stevens R, Wegley L, Zhang L, Zhu B, Rohwer F (2009) The GAAS metagenomic tool and its estimations of viral and microbial average genome size in four major biomes. PLoS Comput. Biol. 5(12):e1000593 (PMC2781106) View Abstract · Pubmed Record
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    Metagenomic studies characterize both the composition and diversity of uncultured viral and microbial communities. BLAST-based comparisons have typically been used for such analyses; however, sampling biases, high percentages of unknown sequences, and the use of arbitrary thresholds to find significant similarities can decrease the accuracy and validity of estimates. Here, we present Genome relative Abundance and Average Size (GAAS), a complete software package that provides improved estimates of community composition and average genome length for metagenomes in both textual and graphical formats. GAAS implements a novel methodology to control for sampling bias via length normalization, to adjust for multiple BLAST similarities by similarity weighting, and to select significant similarities using relative alignment lengths. In benchmark tests, the GAAS method was robust to both high percentages of unknown sequences and to variations in metagenomic sequence read lengths. Re-analysis of the Sargasso Sea virome using GAAS indicated that standard methodologies for metagenomic analysis may dramatically underestimate the abundance and importance of organisms with small genomes in environmental systems. Using GAAS, we conducted a meta-analysis of microbial and viral average genome lengths in over 150 metagenomes from four biomes to determine whether genome lengths vary consistently between and within biomes, and between microbial and viral communities from the same environment. Significant differences between biomes and within aquatic sub-biomes (oceans, hypersaline systems, freshwater, and microbialites) suggested that average genome length is a fundamental property of environments driven by factors at the sub-biome level. The behavior of paired viral and microbial metagenomes from the same environment indicated that microbial and viral average genome sizes are independent of each other, but indicative of community responses to stressors and environmental conditions.

  • Thurber RV, Haynes M, Breitbart M, Wegley L, Rohwer F (2009) Laboratory procedures to generate viral metagenomes. Nat Protoc 4(4):470-83 View Abstract · Pubmed Record
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    This collection of laboratory protocols describes the steps to collect viruses from various samples with the specific aim of generating viral metagenome sequence libraries (viromes). Viral metagenomics, the study of uncultured viral nucleic acid sequences from different biomes, relies on several concentration, purification, extraction, sequencing and heuristic bioinformatic methods. No single technique can provide an all-inclusive approach, and therefore the protocols presented here will be discussed in terms of hypothetical projects. However, care must be taken to individualize each step depending on the source and type of viral-particles. This protocol is a description of the processes we have successfully used to: (i) concentrate viral particles from various types of samples, (ii) eliminate contaminating cells and free nucleic acids and (iii) extract, amplify and purify viral nucleic acids. Overall, a sample can be processed to isolate viral nucleic acids suitable for high-throughput sequencing in approximately 1 week.

  • Vega Thurber RL, Barott KL, Hall D, Liu H, Rodriguez-Mueller B, Desnues C, Edwards RA, Haynes M, Angly FE, Wegley L, Rohwer FL (2008) Metagenomic analysis indicates that stressors induce production of herpes-like viruses in the coral Porites compressa. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 105(47):18413-8 (PMC2584576) View Abstract · Pubmed Record
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    During the last several decades corals have been in decline and at least one-third of all coral species are now threatened with extinction. Coral disease has been a major contributor to this threat, but little is known about the responsible pathogens. To date most research has focused on bacterial and fungal diseases; however, viruses may also be important for coral health. Using a combination of empirical viral metagenomics and real-time PCR, we show that Porites compressa corals contain a suite of eukaryotic viruses, many related to the Herpesviridae. This coral-associated viral consortium was found to shift in response to abiotic stressors. In particular, when exposed to reduced pH, elevated nutrients, and thermal stress, the abundance of herpes-like viral sequences rapidly increased in 2 separate experiments. Herpes-like viral sequences were rarely detected in apparently healthy corals, but were abundant in a majority of stressed samples. In addition, surveys of the Nematostella and Hydra genomic projects demonstrate that even distantly related Cnidarians contain numerous herpes-like viral genes, likely as a result of latent or endogenous viral infection. These data support the hypotheses that corals experience viral infections, which are exacerbated by stress, and that herpes-like viruses are common in Cnidarians.

  • Dinsdale EA, Edwards RA, Hall D, Angly F, Breitbart M, Brulc JM, Furlan M, Desnues C, Haynes M, Li L, McDaniel L, Moran MA, Nelson KE, Nilsson C, Olson R, Paul J, Brito BR, Ruan Y, Swan BK, Stevens R, Valentine DL, Thurber RV, Wegley L, White BA, Rohwer F (2008) Functional metagenomic profiling of nine biomes. Nature 452(7187):629-32 View Abstract · Pubmed Record
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    Microbial activities shape the biogeochemistry of the planet and macroorganism health. Determining the metabolic processes performed by microbes is important both for understanding and for manipulating ecosystems (for example, disruption of key processes that lead to disease, conservation of environmental services, and so on). Describing microbial function is hampered by the inability to culture most microbes and by high levels of genomic plasticity. Metagenomic approaches analyse microbial communities to determine the metabolic processes that are important for growth and survival in any given environment. Here we conduct a metagenomic comparison of almost 15 million sequences from 45 distinct microbiomes and, for the first time, 42 distinct viromes and show that there are strongly discriminatory metabolic profiles across environments. Most of the functional diversity was maintained in all of the communities, but the relative occurrence of metabolisms varied, and the differences between metagenomes predicted the biogeochemical conditions of each environment. The magnitude of the microbial metabolic capabilities encoded by the viromes was extensive, suggesting that they serve as a repository for storing and sharing genes among their microbial hosts and influence global evolutionary and metabolic processes.

  • Desnues C, Rodriguez-Brito B, Rayhawk S, Kelley S, Tran T, Haynes M, Liu H, Furlan M, Wegley L, Chau B, Ruan Y, Hall D, Angly FE, Edwards RA, Li L, Thurber RV, Reid RP, Siefert J, Souza V, Valentine DL, Swan BK, Breitbart M, Rohwer F (2008) Biodiversity and biogeography of phages in modern stromatolites and thrombolites. Nature 452(7185):340-3 View Abstract · Pubmed Record
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    Viruses, and more particularly phages (viruses that infect bacteria), represent one of the most abundant living entities in aquatic and terrestrial environments. The biogeography of phages has only recently been investigated and so far reveals a cosmopolitan distribution of phage genetic material (or genotypes). Here we address this cosmopolitan distribution through the analysis of phage communities in modern microbialites, the living representatives of one of the most ancient life forms on Earth. On the basis of a comparative metagenomic analysis of viral communities associated with marine (Highborne Cay, Bahamas) and freshwater (Pozas Azules II and Rio Mesquites, Mexico) microbialites, we show that some phage genotypes are geographically restricted. The high percentage of unknown sequences recovered from the three metagenomes (>97%), the low percentage similarities with sequences from other environmental viral (n = 42) and microbial (n = 36) metagenomes, and the absence of viral genotypes shared among microbialites indicate that viruses are genetically unique in these environments. Identifiable sequences in the Highborne Cay metagenome were dominated by single-stranded DNA microphages that were not detected in any other samples examined, including sea water, fresh water, sediment, terrestrial, extreme, metazoan-associated and marine microbial mats. Finally, a marine signature was present in the phage community of the Pozas Azules II microbialites, even though this environment has not been in contact with the ocean for tens of millions of years. Taken together, these results prove that viruses in modern microbialites display biogeographical variability and suggest that they may be derived from an ancient community.

  • Dinsdale EA, Pantos O, Smriga S, Edwards RA, Angly F, Wegley L, Hatay M, Hall D, Brown E, Haynes M, Krause L, Sala E, Sandin SA, Thurber RV, Willis BL, Azam F, Knowlton N, Rohwer F (2008) Microbial ecology of four coral atolls in the Northern Line Islands. PLoS ONE 3(2):e1584 (PMC2253183) View Abstract · Pubmed Record
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    Microbes are key players in both healthy and degraded coral reefs. A combination of metagenomics, microscopy, culturing, and water chemistry were used to characterize microbial communities on four coral atolls in the Northern Line Islands, central Pacific. Kingman, a small uninhabited atoll which lies most northerly in the chain, had microbial and water chemistry characteristic of an open ocean ecosystem. On this atoll the microbial community was equally divided between autotrophs (mostly Prochlorococcus spp.) and heterotrophs. In contrast, Kiritimati, a large and populated ( approximately 5500 people) atoll, which is most southerly in the chain, had microbial and water chemistry characteristic of a near-shore environment. On Kiritimati, there were 10 times more microbial cells and virus-like particles in the water column and these microbes were dominated by heterotrophs, including a large percentage of potential pathogens. Culturable Vibrios were common only on Kiritimati. The benthic community on Kiritimati had the highest prevalence of coral disease and lowest coral cover. The middle atolls, Palmyra and Tabuaeran, had intermediate densities of microbes and viruses and higher percentages of autotrophic microbes than either Kingman or Kiritimati. The differences in microbial communities across atolls could reflect variation in 1) oceaonographic and/or hydrographic conditions or 2) human impacts associated with land-use and fishing. The fact that historically Kingman and Kiritimati did not differ strongly in their fish or benthic communities (both had large numbers of sharks and high coral cover) suggest an anthropogenic component in the differences in the microbial communities. Kingman is one of the world's most pristine coral reefs, and this dataset should serve as a baseline for future studies of coral reef microbes. Obtaining the microbial data set, from atolls is particularly important given the association of microbes in the ongoing degradation of coral reef ecosystems worldwide.

  • Wegley L, Edwards R, Rodriguez-Brito B, Liu H, Rohwer F (2007) Metagenomic analysis of the microbial community associated with the coral Porites astreoides. Environ. Microbiol. 9(11):2707-19 View Abstract · Pubmed Record
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    The coral holobiont is a dynamic assemblage of the coral animal, zooxanthellae, endolithic algae and fungi, Bacteria,Archaea and viruses. Zooxanthellae and some Bacteria form relatively stable and species-specific associations with corals. Other associations are less specific; coral-associated Archaea differ from those in the water column, but the same archaeal species may be found on different coral species. It has been hypothesized that the coral animal can adapt to differing ecological niches by 'switching' its microbial associates. In the case of corals and zooxanthellae, this has been termed adaptive bleaching and it has important implications for carbon cycling within the coral holobiont and ultimately the survival of coral reefs. However, the roles of other components of the coral holobiont are essentially unknown. To better understand these other coral associates, a fractionation procedure was used to separate the microbes, mitochondria and viruses from the coral animal cells and zooxanthellae. The resulting metagenomic DNA was sequenced using pyrosequencing. Fungi, Bacteria and phage were the most commonly identified organisms in the metagenome. Three of the four fungal phyla were represented, including a wide diversity of fungal genes involved in carbon and nitrogen metabolism, suggesting that the endolithic community is more important than previously appreciated. In particular, the data suggested that endolithic fungi could be converting nitrate and nitrite to ammonia, which would enable fixed nitrogen to cycle within the coral holobiont. The most prominent bacterial groups were Proteobacteria (68%), Firmicutes (10%), Cyanobacteria (7%) and Actinobacteria (6%). Functionally, the bacterial community was primarily heterotrophic and included a number of pathways for the degradation of aromatic compounds, the most abundant being the homogentisate pathway. The most abundant phage family was the ssDNA Microphage and most of the eukaryotic viruses were most closely related to those known to infect aquatic organisms. This study provides a metabolic and taxonomic snapshot of microbes associated with the reef-building coral Porites astreoides and presents a basis for understanding how coral-microbial interactions structure the holobiont and coral reefs.

  • Beman JM, Roberts KJ, Wegley L, Rohwer F, Francis CA (2007) Distribution and diversity of archaeal ammonia monooxygenase genes associated with corals. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 73(17):5642-7 (PMC2042080) View Abstract · Pubmed Record
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    Corals are known to harbor diverse microbial communities of Bacteria and Archaea, yet the ecological role of these microorganisms remains largely unknown. Here we report putative ammonia monooxygenase subunit A (amoA) genes of archaeal origin associated with corals. Multiple DNA samples drawn from nine coral species and four different reef locations were PCR screened for archaeal and bacterial amoA genes, and archaeal amoA gene sequences were obtained from five different species of coral collected in Bocas del Toro, Panama. The 210 coral-associated archaeal amoA sequences recovered in this study were broadly distributed phylogenetically, with most only distantly related to previously reported sequences from coastal/estuarine sediments and oceanic water columns. In contrast, the bacterial amoA gene could not be amplified from any of these samples. These results offer further evidence for the widespread presence of the archaeal amoA gene in marine ecosystems, including coral reefs.

  • Wegley L, Mosier-Boss P, Lieberman S, Andrews J, Graff-Baker A, Rohwer F (2006) Rapid estimation of microbial numbers in water using bulk fluorescence. Environ. Microbiol. 8(10):1775-82 View Abstract · Pubmed Record
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    Enumeration of microbial cells without culturing is an essential technique for microbial ecology and water quality evaluation. Here we show that bulk fluorescence using the SYBR Gold DNA stain can be used to rapidly quantify microbial cells per millilitre in fresh, marine and estuarine waters. The bulk fluorescence method is comparable to estimating cell concentrations in cultures using optical density; however, this enhanced method enables the user to estimate microbial numbers at lower concentration (> 10(5) cells ml(-1)) found in environmental samples. The technique worked in both single-cell and 96-well plate fluorescent spectrophotometers. Differences of approximately 10(5) cells per millilitre were discernible and the precision of the bulk fluorescence was higher than direct counting by epifluorescent microscopy. Treatment with DNase I increased sensitivity by lowering background noise attributed to free DNA. This technique is simple, rapid, inexpensive and adaptable for automatically estimating microbial numbers in water samples.

  • Edwards RA, Rodriguez-Brito B, Wegley L, Haynes M, Breitbart M, Peterson DM, Saar MO, Alexander S, Alexander EC, Rohwer F (2006) Using pyrosequencing to shed light on deep mine microbial ecology. BMC Genomics 7:57 (PMC1483832) View Abstract · Pubmed Record
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    Contrasting biological, chemical and hydrogeological analyses highlights the fundamental processes that shape different environments. Generating and interpreting the biological sequence data was a costly and time-consuming process in defining an environment. Here we have used pyrosequencing, a rapid and relatively inexpensive sequencing technology, to generate environmental genome sequences from two sites in the Soudan Mine, Minnesota, USA. These sites were adjacent to each other, but differed significantly in chemistry and hydrogeology. Comparisons of the microbes and the subsystems identified in the two samples highlighted important differences in metabolic potential in each environment. The microbes were performing distinct biochemistry on the available substrates, and subsystems such as carbon utilization, iron acquisition mechanisms, nitrogen assimilation, and respiratory pathways separated the two communities. Although the correlation between much of the microbial metabolism occurring and the geochemical conditions from which the samples were isolated could be explained, the reason for the presence of many pathways in these environments remains to be determined. Despite being physically close, these two communities were markedly different from each other. In addition, the communities were also completely different from other microbial communities sequenced to date. We anticipate that pyrosequencing will be widely used to sequence environmental samples because of the speed, cost, and technical advantages. Furthermore, subsystem comparisons rapidly identify the important metabolisms employed by the microbes in different environments.

  • Casas V, Kline DI, Wegley L, Yu Y, Breitbart M, Rohwer F (2004) Widespread association of a Rickettsiales-like bacterium with reef-building corals. Environ. Microbiol. 6(11):1137-48 View Abstract · Pubmed Record
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    White band disease type I (WBD I) has been a major cause of the dramatic decline of Acroporid coral populations throughout the Caribbean during the last two decades, yet the aetiological agent of this disease is unknown. In this study, the bacterial communities associated with both healthy and diseased Acropora species were compared by 16S rDNA analyses. The bacterial communities of both healthy and diseased Acropora spp. were dominated by a single ribotype with 90% identity to a bacterium in the order Rickettsiales. Screening by nested PCR specific to the coral-associated Rickettsiales 1 (CAR1) bacterium showed that this microbe was widespread in both healthy and diseased A. cervicornis and A. palmata corals from 'healthy' (i.e. low WBD I incidence) and 'stressed' reefs (i.e. high WBD I incidence). These results indicate that there were no dramatic changes in the composition of the microbial community associated with WBD I. CAR1 was also associated with non-Acroporid corals of the Caribbean, as well as with two Acroporid corals native to the Pacific. CAR1 was not present in the water column. This bacterium was also absent from preserved Caribbean Acroporid samples collected between 1937 and 1980 before the outbreak of WBD I. These results suggest CAR1 is a relatively new bacterial associate of Acroporids and that a non-bacterial pathogen might be the cause of WBD I.

  • Sano E, Carlson S, Wegley L, Rohwer F (2004) Movement of viruses between biomes. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 70(10):5842-6 (PMC522096) View Abstract · Pubmed Record
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    Viruses are abundant in all known ecosystems. In the present study, we tested the possibility that viruses from one biome can successfully propagate in another. Viral concentrates were prepared from different near-shore marine sites, lake water, marine sediments, and soil. The concentrates were added to microcosms containing dissolved organic matter as a food source (after filtration to allow 100-kDa particles to pass through) and a 3% (vol/vol) microbial inoculum from a marine water sample (after filtration through a 0.45-microm-pore-size filter). Virus-like particle abundances were then monitored using direct counting. Viral populations from lake water, marine sediments, and soil were able to replicate when they were incubated with the marine microbes, showing that viruses can move between different ecosystems and propagate. These results imply that viruses can laterally transfer DNA between microbes in different biomes.

  • Breitbart M, Wegley L, Leeds S, Schoenfeld T, Rohwer F (2004) Phage community dynamics in hot springs. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 70(3):1633-40 (PMC368299) View Abstract · Pubmed Record
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    In extreme thermal environments such as hot springs, phages are the only known microbial predators. Here we present the first study of prokaryotic and phage community dynamics in these environments. Phages were abundant in hot springs, reaching concentrations of a million viruses per milliliter. Hot spring phage particles were resistant to shifts to lower temperatures, possibly facilitating DNA transfer out of these extreme environments. The phages were actively produced, with a population turnover time of 1 to 2 days. Phage-mediated microbial mortality was significant, making phage lysis an important component of hot spring microbial food webs. Together, these results show that phages exert an important influence on microbial community structure and energy flow in extreme thermal environments.

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Forest Rohwer, PhD
Professor of Biology
SDSU Dept. of Biology