The history of life is a history of incessant virus-host interactions. All cellular life forms are hosts to viruses, which outnumber cellular organisms by at least one order of magnitude. We are particularly captivated by the sophistication of the virus design, which allows these relatively simple entities to execute the reproductive program with extremely high precision and efficiency, as testified by their evolutionary success in the biosphere. Research in the Archaeal Virology Unit focuses on addressing various fundamental questions at the interface of microbiology, virology and evolution: What molecular mechanisms allow viruses to subvert the host cells into virion-producing factories? What is the extent of viral diversity? What are the ultimate origins of different groups of viruses? How do these groups relate to each other as well as to other types of mobile genetic elements, such as plasmids and transposons? As a model for our research, we use viruses infecting archaea, which represent one of the least explored parts of the global virosphere. Archaea are hosts to viruses with some of the most unexpected virion morphologies, such as bottle-shaped, lemon-shaped, coil-shaped and droplet-shaped virions. The distinct nature of archaeal viruses also extends to their genomes, with the vast majority of the genes showing no similarity to sequences in the databases. Environmental research has revealed prominent roles of archaeal viruses in influencing microbial communities in ocean ecosystems, and recent metagenomic studies have uncovered new groups of archaeal viruses that infect extremophiles and mesophiles in diverse habitats. We are exploring the extent of archaeal virus diversity in different habitats – from the human gut to hypersaline lakes and acidic hot springs – and study different aspects of their biology, including virion structure and assembly, molecular mechanisms of virus entry and egress as well as other aspects of virus-host interaction. During the past few years, we have isolated and characterized a number of new archaeal virus-host systems. This advancement provides us the opportunity to study not only virus-host interactions but also to explore different aspects of archaeal cell biology.
Emergence(s) project MEMREMA: Membrane remodeling in Archaea
Archaea have unique membranes, radically different from those of bacteria and eukaryotes. Whereas in bacteria and eukaryotes, lipids consist of fatty acids linked to glycerol moieties via an ester bond, in archaeal lipids, isoprenoid […]
ANR-VIROMET-Uncovering the VIRome of archaeal METhanogens
Methanogenic archaea are phylogenetically diverse, ancient and environmentally widespread. They are common inhabitants of the gastrointestinal tract of humans and other animals, and produce methane, a potent green-house gas, as a metabolic by-product. Despite […]
ANR-ENVIRA: Membrane remodeling by enveloped viruses of Archaea
Membrane remodeling is a fundamental and necessary process underlying proper functioning of cellular organisms in all three domains of life. Much of our knowledge on the mechanisms of membrane fusion and scission, two of […]
2021New insights into the diversity and evolution of the archaeal mobilome from three complete genomes of Saccharolobus shibatae, Environ Microbiol 2021 Jun; (): .
2021Going to extremes – a metagenomic journey into the dark matter of life, FEMS Microbiol Lett 2021 Jun; 368(12):fnab067 .
2021ICTV Virus Taxonomy Profile: Portogloboviridae, J Gen Virol 2021 Jun; 102(6):001605.
2021Adnaviria: a new realm for archaeal filamentous viruses with linear A-form double-stranded DNA genomes, J Virol 2021 May; 95(15):e00673-21.
2021Archaeal extracellular vesicles are produced in an ESCRT-dependent manner and promote gene transfer and nutrient cycling in extreme environments., ISME J 2021 Apr; (): .
2021Virus-induced cell gigantism and asymmetric cell division in archaea, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2021 Apr; 118(15):e2022578118.
2021Near-atomic structure of an atadenovirus reveals a conserved capsid-binding motif and intergenera variations in cementing proteins, Sci Adv 2021 Mar; 7(14):eabe6008.
2021The healthy human virome: from virus-host symbiosis to disease, Curr Opin Virol 2021 Feb; 47: 86-94.
2020The LUCA and its complex virome, Nat Rev Microbiol 2020 Nov; 18(11): 661-670.
2020Diversity and evolution of B-family DNA polymerases, Nucleic Acids Res 2020 Oct; 48(18): 10142-10156.
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