Article

DNA viruses: The really big ones (giruses)

Department of Plant Pathology, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska 68583, USA.
Annual review of microbiology (Impact Factor: 12.18). 10/2010; 64(1):83-99. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.micro.112408.134338
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

Viruses with genomes greater than 300 kb and up to 1200 kb are being discovered with increasing frequency. These large viruses (often called giruses) can encode up to 900 proteins and also many tRNAs. Consequently, these viruses have more protein-encoding genes than many bacteria, and the concept of small particle/small genome that once defined viruses is no longer valid. Giruses infect bacteria and animals although most of the recently discovered ones infect protists. Thus, genome gigantism is not restricted to a specific host or phylogenetic clade. To date, most of the giruses are associated with aqueous environments. Many of these large viruses (phycodnaviruses and Mimiviruses) probably have a common evolutionary ancestor with the poxviruses, iridoviruses, asfarviruses, ascoviruses, and a recently discovered Marseillevirus. One issue that is perhaps not appreciated by the microbiology community is that large viruses, even ones classified in the same family, can differ significantly in morphology, lifestyle, and genome structure. This review focuses on some of these differences than on extensive details about individual viruses.

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    • "The study of unique viral features has been a wellspring of discovery that helped establish the foundations of molecular biology and led to in-depth evolutionary studies [1-3]. In this context, giant viruses have recently emerged as a fascinating line of research, raising important questions regarding evolution and their relationships with their hosts [4-10]. "
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    ABSTRACT: In 2003, Acanthamoeba polyphaga mimivirus (APMV) was first described and began to impact researchers around the world, due to its structural and genetic complexity. This virus founded the family Mimiviridae. In recent years, several new giant viruses have been isolated from different environments and specimens. Giant virus research is in its initial phase and information that may arise in the coming years may change current conceptions of life, diversity and evolution. Thus, this review aims to condense the studies conducted so far about the features and peculiarities of APMV, from its discovery to its clinical relevance.
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    • "The rapid advances of genomics and metagenomics lead not only to the rapid growth of sequence databases but to discovery of fundamentally novel types of genetic elements. The discovery and characterization of giant viruses that infect unicellular eukaryotes, in particular members of the family Mimiviridae infecting amoeba, over the last decade revealed a remarkable new class of agents that are typical viruses by structure and reproduction strategy but exceed many parasitic bacteria in size and genomic complexity [1-6]. Much like bacteria, the giant viruses (sometimes called giruses) possess their own parasites and their own mobilomes, i.e. communities of associated mobile genetic elements [7]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Recent advances of genomics and metagenomics reveal remarkable diversity of viruses and other selfish genetic elements. In particular, giant viruses have been shown to possess their own mobilomes that include virophages, small viruses that parasitize on giant viruses of the Mimiviridae family, and transpovirons, distinct linear plasmids. One of the virophages known as the Mavirus, a parasite of the giant Cafeteria roenbergensis virus, shares several genes with large eukaryotic self-replicating transposon of the Polinton (Maverick) family, and it has been proposed that the polintons evolved from a Mavirus-like ancestor. Results We performed a comprehensive phylogenomic analysis of the available genomes of virophages and traced the evolutionary connections between the virophages and other selfish genetic elements. The comparison of the gene composition and genome organization of the virophages reveals 6 conserved, core genes that are organized in partially conserved arrays. Phylogenetic analysis of those core virophage genes, for which a sufficient diversity of homologs outside the virophages was detected, including the maturation protease and the packaging ATPase, supports the monophyly of the virophages. The results of this analysis appear incompatible with the origin of polintons from a Mavirus-like agent but rather suggest that Mavirus evolved through recombination between a polinton and an unknownvirus. Altogether, virophages, polintons, a distinct Tetrahymena transposable element Tlr1, transpovirons, adenoviruses, and some bacteriophages form a network of evolutionary relationships that is held together by overlapping sets of shared genes and appears to represent a distinct module in the vast total network of viruses and mobile elements. Conclusions The results of the phylogenomic analysis of the virophages and related genetic elements are compatible with the concept of network-like evolution of the virus world and emphasize multiple evolutionary connections between bona fide viruses and other classes of capsid-less mobile elements.
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