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Virophages of Giant Viruses: An Update at Eleven

Aix-Marseille Université, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), Assistance Publique - Hôpitaux de Marseille (AP-HM), Microbes Evolution Phylogeny and Infections (MEPHI), 27 boulevard Jean Moulin, 13005 Marseille, France
Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire (IHU) Méditerranée Infection, 19-21 boulevard Jean Moulin, 13005 Marseille, France
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Viruses 2019, 11(8), 733;
Received: 12 July 2019 / Revised: 31 July 2019 / Accepted: 2 August 2019 / Published: 8 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Viruses of Plants, Fungi and Protozoa)
PDF [27967 KB, uploaded 8 August 2019]


The last decade has been marked by two eminent discoveries that have changed our perception of the virology field: The discovery of giant viruses and a distinct new class of viral agents that parasitize their viral factories, the virophages. Coculture and metagenomics have actively contributed to the expansion of the virophage family by isolating dozens of new members. This increase in the body of data on virophage not only revealed the diversity of the virophage group, but also the relevant ecological impact of these small viruses and their potential role in the dynamics of the microbial network. In addition, the isolation of virophages has led us to discover previously unknown features displayed by their host viruses and cells. In this review, we present an update of all the knowledge on the isolation, biology, genomics, and morphological features of the virophages, a decade after the discovery of their first member, the Sputnik virophage. We discuss their parasitic lifestyle as bona fide viruses of the giant virus factories, genetic parasites of their genomes, and then their role as a key component or target for some host defense mechanisms during the tripartite virophage–giant virus–host cell interaction. We also present the latest advances regarding their origin, classification, and definition that have been widely discussed. View Full-Text
Keywords: virophage; giant virus; coculture; metagenomic; host-defense systems; satellite virus virophage; giant virus; coculture; metagenomic; host-defense systems; satellite virus

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Mougari, S.; Sahmi-Bounsiar, D.; Levasseur, A.; Colson, P.; La Scola, B. Virophages of Giant Viruses: An Update at Eleven. Viruses 2019, 11, 733.

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