Scientists found a brand new branch of organisms in the boiling acid pools or Yellowstone National Park!
Before we had only found DNA viruses in these pools, DNA viruses infecting archaea.
Youngs troupe of scientists thought there might be more… but how do you find something if you dont know what you are looking for?
Well, with viruses we have some clues. There are some things viruses have that us ‘normies’ dont have. Like, RNA viruses need an RNA-dependent RNA polymerase to replicate. Us normie DNA creatures have no used for an RNA-RNA polymerase. Soooooo if one found a gene floating around that looked like it could code for one of those bad boys, you might have found a brand new RNA virus!
Thats exactly what Youngs group did, and thats exactly what they found!
We describe here identification of novel RNA viral genome segments from high temperature acidic hot springs in Yellowstone National Park, USA. These hot springs harbor low complexity cellular communities dominated by several species of hyperthermophilic Archaea. A viral metagenomics approach was taken to assemble segments of these RNA virus genomes from viral populations directly isolated from hot spring samples. Analysis of these RNA metagenomes demonstrated unique gene content that is not generally related to known RNA viruses of Bacteria and Eukarya. However, genes for RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp), a hallmark of positive-strand RNA viruses, were identified in two contigs.
What does this mean, though?
There are no known RNA viruses that infect Archaea. Filling this gap in our knowledge of viruses will enhance our understanding of the relationships between RNA viruses from the three domains of cellular life, and in particular could shed light on the origin of the enormous diversity of RNA viruses infecting eukaryotes.
… Collectively, our findings suggest the existence of novel positive-strand RNA viruses that likely replicate in hyperthermophilic archaeal hosts and are highly divergent from RNA viruses that infect eukaryotes and even more distant from known bacterial RNA viruses. These positive-strand RNA viruses might be direct ancestors of RNA viruses of eukaryotes.
These viruses are not just kinda new. They are really really different from the RNA viruses we already know about! NEW BRANCH OF VIRUSES! NEW BRANCH OF VIRUSES! YAAAAAY!!!
That red branch, the ‘Contigs’, doesnt cluster with any of the viruses we already knew about. NEEEEEEW!!! COOOOOL!!!