Giant viruses come of age

Curr Opin Microbiol. 2016 Jun:31:50-57. doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2016.03.001. Epub 2016 Mar 19.


Viruses with genomes up to a few megabases in length are a common occurrence in nature, even though they have escaped our notice until recently. These giant viruses infect mainly single-celled eukaryotes and isolation efforts concentrating on amoebal hosts alone have spawned hundreds of viral isolates, featuring viruses with previously unseen virion morphologies and the largest known viral genomes and particles. One of the challenges that lie ahead is to analyze and categorize the available data and to establish an approved classification system that reflects the evolutionary relationships and biological properties of these viruses. Extensive sampling of Acanthamoeba-infecting mimiviruses and initial characterization of their virophage parasites have provided a first blueprint of the genetic diversity and composition of a giant virus clade that will facilitate the taxonomic grouping of these fascinating microorganisms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acanthamoeba / virology
  • Base Sequence
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genome, Viral / genetics*
  • Giant Viruses / classification*
  • Giant Viruses / genetics*
  • Mimiviridae / genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Virophages / genetics