Date of this Version
Viruses 2011, 3, 32-46; doi:10.3390/v3010032
Viruses with genomes larger than 300 kb and up to 1.2 Mb, which encode hundreds of proteins, are being discovered and characterized with increasing frequency. Most, but not all, of these large viruses (often referred to as giruses) infect protists that live in aqueous environments. Bioinformatic analyses of metagenomes of aqueous samples indicate that large DNA viruses are quite common in nature and await discovery. One issue that is perhaps not appreciated by the virology community is that large viruses, even those classified in the same family, can differ significantly in morphology, lifestyle, and gene complement. This brief commentary, which will mention some of these unique properties, was stimulated by the characterization of the newest member of this club, virus CroV (Fischer, M.G.; Allen, M.J.; Wilson, W.H.; Suttle, C.A. Giant virus with a remarkable complement of genes infects marine zooplankton. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2010, 107, 19508-19513 ). CroV has a 730 kb genome (with ~544 protein-encoding genes) and infects the marine microzooplankton Cafeteria roenbergensis producing a lytic infection.