This article needs to be updated.May 2020)(
Group I (dsDNA)
A giant virus, also known as a girus, is a very large virus, some of which are larger than typical bacteria. They have extremely large genomes compared to other viruses and contain many unique genes not found in life forms. All known giant viruses belong to the phylum Nucleocytoviricota (nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses, NCLDVs); they are the larger members of this group.
While the exact criteria as defined in the scientific literature vary, giant viruses are generally described as viruses having large, pseudo-icosahedral capsids (200 to 400 nanometers) that may be surrounded by a thick (approximately 100 nm) layer of filamentous protein fibers. The viruses' large, double-stranded DNA genomes (300 to 1000 kilobasepairs or larger) encode a large contingent of genes (of the order of 1000 genes). While few giant viruses have been characterized in detail, the most notable examples are the phylogenetically related mimivirus and megavirus — both belonging to the Mimiviridae (aka Megaviridae) family, due to their having the largest capsid diameters of all known viruses.
Giant viruses replicate within large spheroidal virus factories located within the cytoplasm of the infected host cell. This is similar to the replication mechanism used by Poxviridae, though whether this mechanism is employed by all giant viruses or only mimivirus and the related mamavirus has yet to be determined. These virion replication factories can themselves be infected by the virophage satellite viruses, which inhibit or impair the reproduction of the complementary virus.
Giant viruses from the deep ocean, terrestrial sources, and human patients contain genes encoding cytochrome P450 (CYP; P450) enzymes. The origin of these P450 genes in giant viruses remains unknown but may have been acquired from an ancient host.
Genetics and evolution
The genomes of giant viruses are the largest known for viruses, and contain genes that encode for important elements of translation machinery, a characteristic that had previously been believed to be indicative of cellular organisms. These genes include multiple genes encoding a number of aminoacyl tRNA synthetases, enzymes that catalyze the esterification of specific amino acids or their precursors to their corresponding cognate tRNAs to form an aminoacyl tRNA that is then used during translation. The presence of four aminoacyl tRNA synthetase encoding genes in mimivirus and mamavirus genomes, both species within the Mimiviridae family, as well as the discovery of seven aminoacyl tRNA synthetase genes, including the four genes present in Mimiviridae, in the megavirus genome provide evidence for a possible scenario in which these large DNA viruses evolved from a shared ancestral cellular genome by means of genome reduction.
Their discovery and subsequent characterization has triggered some debate concerning the evolutionary origins of giant viruses. The two main hypotheses for their origin are that either they evolved from small viruses, picking up DNA from host organisms, or that they evolved from very complicated organisms into the current form which is not self-sufficient for reproduction. What sort of complicated organism giant viruses might have diverged from is also a topic of debate. One proposal is that the origin point actually represents a fourth domain of life, but this has been largely discounted.
Comparison of largest known giant viruses
|Giant virus name||Genome Length||Genes||Capsid diameter (nm)||Hair cover||Genbank #|
|Bodo saltans virus||1,385,869||1227 proteins (predicted)||~300||yes (~40 nm)||MF782455|
|Megavirus chilensis||1,259,197||1120 proteins (predicted)||440||yes (75 nm)||JN258408|
|Mamavirus||1,191,693||1023 proteins (predicted)||500||yes (120 nm)||JF801956|
|Mimivirus||1,181,549||979 proteins 39 non-coding||500||yes (120 nm)||NC_014649|
|Giant virus name||Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase||Octocoral-like 1MutS||2Stargate||Known virophage||Cytoplasmic virion factory||Host|
|Megavirus chilensis||7 (Tyr, Arg, Met, Cys, Trp, Asn, Ile)||yes||yes||no||yes||Acanthamoeba (Unikonta, Amoebozoa)|
|Mamavirus||4 (Tyr, Arg, Met, Cys)||yes||yes||yes||yes||Acanthamoeba (Unikonta, Amoebozoa)|
|Mimivirus||4 (Tyr, Arg, Met, Cys)||yes||yes||yes||yes||Acanthamoeba (Unikonta, Amoebozoa)|
1Mutator S (MutS) and its homologs are a family of DNA mismatch repair proteins involved in the mismatch repair system that acts to correct point mutations or small insertion/deletion loops produced during DNA replication, increasing the fidelity of replication. 2A stargate is a five-pronged star structure present on the viral capsid forming the portal through which the internal core of the particle is delivered to the host's cytoplasm.
- Nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses
- Cafeteria roenbergensis virus
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- head and tail, respectively
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- Media related to Giant viruses at Wikimedia Commons