Giant Viruses Invent Genes Shared by No Life on Earth

Live Science | 6/13/2018 | Staff
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Giant viruses may invent genes and proteins found nowhere else on Earth, new research suggests.

As their name implies, giant viruses are big — as big as bacteria, and more than twice the size of typical viruses, scientists have previously reported. Giant viruses have more complex genomes than some simple microbial organisms, and many of their genes code for proteins found only in giant viruses, according to past studies.

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Even before the discovery of giant viruses, viruses occupied a questionable position on the tree of life: They contain much of the cellular material found in living organisms, including DNA or RNA, but they lack cell structure and cannot replicate outside a host — two key criteria for defining life.

Date - Virus - Families - Mollivirus - Megavirus

To date, there are four known giant virus families: Mollivirus, Megavirus, Pithovirus and Pandoravirus. Researchers recently identified three new examples of Pandoravirus from samples collected in France, New Caledonia (a French territory in the Pacific) and Australia, and all of the new Pandoraviruses contained large quantities of orphan genes and unique proteins. But these orphan genes differed among the viruses, which meant it was unlikely that they originated in a common ancestor, the scientists reported.

"Ninety percent of their proteins do not share any significant similarity with proteins of other viruses, outside of their own family, or cellular...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Live Science
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