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Intervirology. 2010;53(5):254-67. doi: 10.1159/000312910. Epub 2010 Jun 15.

Amoeba/amoebal symbiont genetic transfers: lessons from giant virus neighbours.

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  • 1STERIS SA R&D, Fontenay-aux-Roses, France.


Free-living amoebae serve as hosts for a variety of amoebae-resisting microorganisms, including giant viruses and certain bacteria. The latter include symbiotic bacteria as well as bacteria exhibiting a pathogenic phenotype towards amoebae. Amoebae-resisting bacteria have been shown to be widespread in water and to use the amoebae as a reservoir, a replication niche, a protective armour as well as a training ground to select virulence traits allowing survival in the face of microbicidal effects of macrophages, the first line of defense against invading pathogens. More importantly, amoebae play a significant role as a melting pot for genetic exchanges. These ecological and evolutionary roles of amoebae might also be at play for giant viruses and knowledge derived from the study of amoebae-resisting bacteria is useful for the study and understanding of interactions between amoebae and giant viruses. This is especially important since some genes have spread in all domains of life and the exponential availability of eukaryotic genomes and metagenomic sequences will allow researchers to explore these genetic exchanges in a more comprehensive way, thus completely changing our perception of the evolutionary history of organisms. Thus, a large part of this review is dedicated to report current known gene exchanges between the different amoebae-resisting organisms and between amoebae and the internalized bacteria.

Copyright 2010 S. Karger AG, Basel.

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