Reclassification of Giant Viruses Composing a Fourth Domain of Life in the New Order Megavirales

Intervirology. 2012;55(5):321-32. doi: 10.1159/000336562. Epub 2012 Apr 14.


Interest in giant viruses has risen sharply since 2003, following the discovery of the Mimivirus and four other protist-infecting giant viruses that are linked to the nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses (NCLDVs). Despite considerable heterogeneity in hosts and genome sizes, the NCLDVs have been shown to be monophyletic based on analyses of their sequences and gene repertoires and recent studies have proposed that these viruses share a common ancient ancestor and compose a fourth domain of life. In addition, several characteristics of these giant viruses contradict or do not match the criteria used for the canonical definition of viruses, and the NCLDV denomination is not completely appropriate. We propose here to define a new viral order named Megavirales.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Viral / chemistry
  • DNA, Viral / genetics*
  • Mimiviridae / classification*
  • Mimiviridae / genetics
  • Phylogeny*
  • Terminology as Topic


  • DNA, Viral