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Giant Viruses—Big Surprises

1
The Rachel and Selim Benin School of Computer Science and Engineering, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91904, Israel
2
Department of Biological Chemistry, The Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91904, Israel
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Viruses 2019, 11(5), 404; https://doi.org/10.3390/v11050404
Received: 22 March 2019 / Revised: 17 April 2019 / Accepted: 23 April 2019 / Published: 30 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Virus Bioinformatics)
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Abstract

Viruses are the most prevalent infectious agents, populating almost every ecosystem on earth. Most viruses carry only a handful of genes supporting their replication and the production of capsids. It came as a great surprise in 2003 when the first giant virus was discovered and found to have a >1 Mbp genome encoding almost a thousand proteins. Following this first discovery, dozens of giant virus strains across several viral families have been reported. Here, we provide an updated quantitative and qualitative view on giant viruses and elaborate on their shared and variable features. We review the complexity of giant viral proteomes, which include functions traditionally associated only with cellular organisms. These unprecedented functions include components of the translation machinery, DNA maintenance, and metabolic enzymes. We discuss the possible underlying evolutionary processes and mechanisms that might have shaped the diversity of giant viruses and their genomes, highlighting their remarkable capacity to hijack genes and genomic sequences from their hosts and environments. This leads us to examine prominent theories regarding the origin of giant viruses. Finally, we present the emerging ecological view of giant viruses, found across widespread habitats and ecological systems, with respect to the environment and human health. View Full-Text
Keywords: Amebae viruses; viral evolution; protein domains; mimivirus; dsdna viruses; translation machinery; pandoravirus; NCLDV Amebae viruses; viral evolution; protein domains; mimivirus; dsdna viruses; translation machinery; pandoravirus; NCLDV
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Brandes, N.; Linial, M. Giant Viruses—Big Surprises. Viruses 2019, 11, 404.

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