Over the years, we have discovered isolated and characterized twenty-four novel species of single- and double-stranded DNA viruses, which parasitize hyperthermophilic archaea, specifically members of the phylum Crenarchaeota. Our virus collection represents two thirds of known viruses of hyperthermophilic crenarchaea and provides a representative slice of the current knowledge on the exceptional diversity of the virosphere associated with the Archaea.
The viruses from our collection display extraordinary diversity of unexpected, complex morphotypes, including bottle-shaped, coil-shaped, spindle-shaped, ovoid, and two tailed viruses, behind which lay exceptional solutions for genome packaging. Their genomes are also exceptional, with about 95% of putative genes without identified function and homologues in extant databases. Moreover, special features of these viruses were shown to extend to distinct folds of proteins which they encode.
Due to the unique morphological and genomic properties, the viruses isolated in our research group were classified into eleven different virus families: Ampullaviridae, Bicaudaviridae, Clavaviridae, Fuselloviridae, Globuloviridae, Guttaviridae, Lipothrixviridae, Rudiviridae, Spiraviridae, Turriviridae and “Tristromaviridae”, seven of which have been newly introduced.