Asgard archaea are globally distributed prokaryotic microorganisms related to eukaryotes; however, viruses that infect these organisms have not been described. Here, using metagenome sequences recovered from deep-sea hydrothermal sediments, we characterize six relatively large (up to 117 kb) double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) viral genomes that infected two Asgard archaeal phyla, Lokiarchaeota and Helarchaeota. These viruses encode Caudovirales-like structural proteins, as well as proteins distinct from those described in known archaeal viruses. Their genomes contain around 1-5% of genes associated with eukaryotic nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses (NCLDVs) and appear to be capable of semi-autonomous genome replication, repair, epigenetic modifications and transcriptional regulation. Moreover, Helarchaeota viruses may hijack host ubiquitin systems similar to eukaryotic viruses. Genomic analysis of these Asgard viruses reveals that they contain features of both prokaryotic and eukaryotic viruses, and provides insights into their potential infection and host interaction mechanisms.
© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.