July 19, 2019  |  

Host genome integration and giant virus-induced reactivation of the virophage mavirus.

Authors: Fischer, Matthias G and Hackl, Thomas

Endogenous viral elements are increasingly found in eukaryotic genomes, yet little is known about their origins, dynamics, or function. Here we provide a compelling example of a DNA virus that readily integrates into a eukaryotic genome where it acts as an inducible antiviral defence system. We found that the virophage mavirus, a parasite of the giant Cafeteria roenbergensis virus (CroV), integrates at multiple sites within the nuclear genome of the marine protozoan Cafeteria roenbergensis. The endogenous mavirus is structurally and genetically similar to eukaryotic DNA transposons and endogenous viruses of the Maverick/Polinton family. Provirophage genes are not constitutively expressed, but are specifically activated by superinfection with CroV, which induces the production of infectious mavirus particles. Virophages can inhibit the replication of mimivirus-like giant viruses and an anti-viral protective effect of provirophages on their hosts has been hypothesized. We find that provirophage-carrying cells are not directly protected from CroV; however, lysis of these cells releases infectious mavirus particles that are then able to suppress CroV replication and enhance host survival during subsequent rounds of infection. The microbial host-parasite interaction described here involves an altruistic aspect and suggests that giant-virus-induced activation of provirophages might be ecologically relevant in natural protist populations.

Journal: Nature
DOI: 10.1038/nature20593
Year: 2016

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