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Independent virus development outside a host

Growing two long filamentous tails may help an archaeal virus to survive in a hostile environment.


Viruses are thought to be functionally inactive once they are outside and independent of their host cell1. Here we describe an exceptional property of a newly discovered virus that infects a hyperthermophilic archaeon growing in acidic hot springs: the lemon-shaped viral particle develops a very long tail at each of its pointed ends after being released from its host cell. The process occurs only at the temperature of the host's habitat (75–90 °C) and it does not require the presence of the host cell, an exogenous energy source or any cofactors. This host-independent morphological development may be a strategy for viral survival in an environment that is unusually harsh and has limited host availability.

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Figure 1: Electron micrographs of Acidianus convivator and different forms of the Acidianus two-tailed virus, or ATV.

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Correspondence to David Prangishvili.

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Häring, M., Vestergaard, G., Rachel, R. et al. Independent virus development outside a host. Nature 436, 1101–1102 (2005).

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