Hard out there: understanding archaeal virus biology

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Hard out there: understanding archaeal virus biology

Authors
Type
Published Article
Journal
Future Virology
Publisher
Future Medicine
Volume
9
Issue
8
Pages
703–706
Identifiers
DOI: 10.2217/fvl.14.52
Source
CdV-UPMC
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

KEYWORDS • Archaea • hyperthermophiles • Sulfolobus rod-shaped virus 2 • virus evolution • virus–host interactions Each of the three domains of life, Archaea, Bacteria and Eukarya, is associated with a specific virosphere. Despite the fact that archaeal viruses represent only a minute portion of the characterized virosphere, they have recently gained wider attention, mainly due to the unexpected morpho-logical properties of their virions and the unprecedented molecular mechanisms employed throughout their life cycles. Archaeal viruses are currently classified into 15 different families [1,2]. Especially remarkable are the viruses of the hyper-thermohilic archaea; these viruses are extremely diverse morphologically and include members with lemon-shaped, droplet-shaped and bottle-shaped viri-ons [1]. Furthermore, the viral genomes encode proteins with little to no significant similarity to proteins in public databases and often possess unique structural folds [3]. Although classical biochemical and genomic studies have yielded important information on the architectures of sev-eral hyperthermophilic archaeal viruses, as well as on the functions of some viral pro-teins, the molecular mechanisms underly-ing different aspects of the infection cycle remain poorly understood for most of these viruses. Studies on bacterial and eukaryotic viruses have benefited from the availabil-ity of well-established genetic tools that have been developed for the respective hosts and, more generally, from the broad knowledge base on the host biology. This, unfortunately, has not been the case for most of the archaeal virus–host systems. The assays that are considered trivial when thinking about bacterial or eukary-otic viruses (e.g., the plaque test used for virus particle enumeration) present dif-ficulties in the case of hyperthermophilic archaeal viruses. Indeed, the cultivation of hyperthermophilic acidophiles, such as Sulfolobus, which, for optimal growth, requires 80°C and pH 2–3, might be challenging. Similarly, live-cell imaging at physiological temperatures, which is widely used to investigate virus–host interaction in eukaryotes, is normally also off the table when dealing with hyperthermophiles. Consequently, the scientific inquiries into the properties of hyperthermophilic archaeal viruses have been, for a long time, limited by the lack of adequate tools. Emmanuelle RJ Quemin

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