As ERV goes, so go the virophages


The virophage as a unique parasite of the giant mimivirus. La Scola B, Desnues C, Pagnier I, Robert C, Barrassi L, Fournous G, Merchat M, Suzan-Monti M, Forterre P, Koonin E, Raoult D.


Virophage control of Antarctic algal host-virus dynamics


A Virophage at the Origin of Large DNA Transposons
Matthias G. Fischer1 and Curtis A. Suttle1,2,3
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, 6339 Stores Road, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. 2Department of Botany, 6339 Stores Road, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. 3Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, 6339 Stores Road, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

I wrote about these little dudes before
— Viruses that parasitize other viruses, fleas on the backs of fleas. Its actually beneficial to the host to be infected with the virophage, because the virophage inhibits the growth of the virus, which kills the host. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Whats neat about the two virophages that were just discovered, is that they were discovered ‘in real life’. First guy might have been a weird lab/human contaminant thingie, an oddball– but it turns out it has lots of relatives irl too!

More via TfK and VirologyBlog


  1. #1 Kevin
    March 30, 2011

    Is it just a weird coincidence that in the same month I start using reddit, reddit memes start showing up all over ERV, or were they always there and I just never knew what they were?

  2. #2 R2
    March 30, 2011

    Though I love virology, it’s not even close to my area. At least… not yet! *evil laugh*

    Anyway, I was wondering how these virophages are different from the Hep D virus? Being co-infected with HBV and HDV is worse for the host. And even worse (IRRC) to be superinfected.

    Is it possible for these viral parasites to work like the bacteriophages that give bacteria the ability to synthesize the diphteria toxin?

  3. #3 Sili
    March 30, 2011

    Pied Piper?

    Not Typhoid Mary?

  4. #4 suddenlyfromtheleft
    March 30, 2011

    Viruses and virophages are basically shuttles for genetic information, constantly mixing things up in what some people call the distributed genome. Probably a lot more of them than bacteria, too. We humans have devolved away from that free exchange of information where one bacterium might share only 30% of its genome with the bacterium beside it (same “species”). Although I am still half kinkajou with a pig snout.

  5. #5 Emerson White
    March 30, 2011

    I’m sure it’s not a selection effect.

  6. #6 Caudoviral
    March 30, 2011

    Interesting. It makes a sort of sense that virophages exist, and I would love to get a peak at their molecular mechanisms. One more thing to put on the stack of topics I need to study (although I wish that stack were a little smaller atm).


  7. #7 Mobius
    March 31, 2011

    All right. The world just became an even stranger place.

  8. #8 SVN
    March 31, 2011

    The phage we study is not really a virophage, or at least we don’t consider it one. It “borrows” the structural proteins from another phage though. You certainly are a piper haha!

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