A new theory on the origin and the nature of viruses

J Theor Biol. 1983 Dec 21;105(4):591-602. doi: 10.1016/0022-5193(83)90221-7.


The hypothetical model presented herein concerns the origin and nature of viruses. It advances the possibility of the appearance and existence of an organism lacking a cohesive morphological structure, that is: its subsystems are not in structural continuity. An attempt to delimit the concepts of life and organism and to integrate the viruses into this framework is made. Viruses are presented as organisms which pass in their ontogenetic cycle through two distinctive phenotypic phases: (1) the vegetative phase and (2) the phase of viral particle or nucleic acid. In the vegetative phase, considered herein to be the ontogenetically mature phase of viruses, their component molecules are dispersed within the host cell. In this phase the virus shows the major physiological properties of other organisms: metabolism, growth, and reproduction. Therefore, life is an effective presence. It is shown also, that in this phase so called "DNA viruses" have both nucleic acids: RNA as well as DNA. The virions are considered to be "spores" or reproductive forms of the virus, possessing life only as a potential property.

MeSH terms

  • Models, Biological*
  • Parasites / genetics
  • Parasites / physiology
  • Phylogeny
  • Reproduction
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Spores
  • Virus Physiological Phenomena*
  • Viruses / genetics
  • Viruses / metabolism