The enigmatic archaeal virosphere

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2017 Nov 10;15(12):724-739. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro.2017.125.


One of the most prominent features of archaea is the extraordinary diversity of their DNA viruses. Many archaeal viruses differ substantially in morphology from bacterial and eukaryotic viruses and represent unique virus families. The distinct nature of archaeal viruses also extends to the gene composition and architectures of their genomes and the properties of the proteins that they encode. Environmental research has revealed prominent roles of archaeal viruses in influencing microbial communities in ocean ecosystems, and recent metagenomic studies have uncovered new groups of archaeal viruses that infect extremophiles and mesophiles in diverse habitats. In this Review, we summarize recent advances in our understanding of the genomic and morphological diversity of archaeal viruses and the molecular biology of their life cycles and virus-host interactions, including interactions with archaeal CRISPR-Cas systems. We also examine the potential origins and evolution of archaeal viruses and discuss their place in the global virosphere.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Archaea / virology*
  • Archaeal Viruses / genetics*
  • Archaeal Viruses / physiology*
  • DNA Viruses / genetics
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome, Viral