Mimivirus and Mimiviridae: giant viruses with an increasing number of potential hosts, including corals and sponges.J Invertebr Pathol. 2009 Jul; 101(3):172-80.JI
Mimivirus, a giant DNA virus (i.e. "girus") infecting species of the genus Acanthamoeba, was first identified in 2003. With a particle size of 0.7microm in diameter, and a genome size of 1.2Mb encoding more than 900 proteins, it is the most complex virus described to date. Beyond its unusual size, the Mimivirus genome was found to contain the first viral homologues of many genes thought to be the trademark of cellular organisms, such as central components of the translation apparatus. These findings revived the debate on the origin of DNA viruses, and the role they might have played in the emergence of eukaryotes. Published and ongoing studies on Mimivirus continue to lead to unexpected findings concerning a variety of aspects, such as the structure of its particle, unique features of its replication cycle, or the distribution and abundance of Mimivirus relatives in the oceans. Following a summary of these recent findings, we present preliminary results suggesting that octocorals might have come in close contact with an ancestor of Mimivirus, and that modern sponges might be host to a yet unidentified, even larger, member of the Mimiviridae.