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Virology. 2014 Oct;466-467:53-9. doi: 10.1016/j.virol.2014.06.004. Epub 2014 Jul 4.

Multiple occurrences of giant virus core genes acquired by eukaryotic genomes: the visible part of the iceberg?

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Laboratoire Evolution, Genomes, Spéciation (LEGS), CNRS UPR9034, Université Paris-Sud. Avenue de la Terrasse, 91190 Gif Sur Yvette, France. Electronic address:


Giant Viruses are a widespread group of viruses, characterized by huge genomes composed of a small subset of ancestral, vertically inherited core genes along with a large body of highly variable genes. In this study, I report the acquisition of 23 core ancestral Giant Virus genes by diverse eukaryotic species including various protists, a moss and a cnidarian. The viral genes are inserted in large scaffolds or chromosomes with intron-rich, eukaryotic-like genomic contexts, refuting the possibility of DNA contaminations. Some of these genes are expressed and in the cryptophyte alga Guillardia theta, a possible non-homologous displacement of the eukaryotic DNA primase by a viral D5 helicase/primase is documented. As core Giant Virus genes represent only a tiny fraction of the total genomic repertoire of these viruses, these results suggest that Giant Viruses represent an underestimated source of new genes and functions for their hosts.


Displacement; Genome evolution; Giant virus; Lateral gene transfer; Non homologous gene

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