Double-stranded DNA viruses: 20 families and only five different architectural principles for virion assembly

Curr Opin Virol. 2011 Aug;1(2):118-24. doi: 10.1016/j.coviro.2011.06.001. Epub 2011 Jul 2.


The number of viral particles in the biosphere is enormous. Virus classification helps to comprehend the virosphere and to understand the relationship between different virus groups. However, the evolutionary reach of the currently employed sequence-based approaches in virus taxonomy is rather limited, producing a fragmented view of the virosphere. As a result, viruses are currently classified into 87 different families. However, studies on virion architectures have unexpectedly revealed that their structural diversity is far more limited. Here we describe structures of the major capsid proteins of double-stranded DNA viruses infecting hosts residing in different domains of life. We note that viruses belonging to 20 different families fall into only five distinct structural groups, suggesting that optimal virus classification approach should equally rely on both sequence and structural information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Archaeal Viruses / chemistry
  • Archaeal Viruses / classification
  • Archaeal Viruses / genetics
  • Archaeal Viruses / physiology
  • Biological Evolution
  • DNA Viruses / chemistry
  • DNA Viruses / classification*
  • DNA Viruses / genetics
  • DNA Viruses / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny
  • Virion / chemistry
  • Virion / classification*
  • Virion / genetics
  • Virion / physiology*
  • Virus Assembly*