Pandoravirus – in vivo veritas

Pandoravirus – a new life form?

“The opening of the box will definitively break the foundations of what we thought viruses were. We were prepared to find new viruses in the 1,000-gene range, but not to more than double that figure. This really indicates than we don’t know what are the possible limits anymore.” Dr. Chantal Abergel

“Ten years ago, the discovery of Mimivirus, a virus infecting Acanthamoeba, initiated a reappraisal of the upper limits of the viral world, both in terms of particle size (>0.7 micrometers) and genome complexity (>1000 genes), dimensions typical of parasitic bacteria. The diversity of these giant viruses (the Megaviridae) was assessed by sampling a variety of aquatic environments and their associated sediments worldwide. We report the isolation of two giant viruses, one off the coast of central Chile, the other from a freshwater pond near Melbourne (Australia), without morphological or genomic resemblance to any previously defined virus families. Their micrometer-sized ovoid particles contain DNA genomes of at least 2.5 and 1.9 megabases, respectively. These viruses are the first members of the proposed “Pandoravirus” genus, a term reflecting their lack of similarity with previously described microorganisms and the surprises expected from their future study.” Nadège Philippe et al. Science (2013).

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