Scanning electron micrograph of Tupanvirus particles

A covering of small fibres gives this Tupanvirus from a Brazilian lake a furry appearance. Credit: J. Abrahão et al./Nature Commun.

Virology

Giant fuzzy virus found in soda lake

Newfound group boasts some of the longest individual viruses ever described.

Two giant viruses found in extreme environments have longer tails and more protein-making apparatus than any other virus known.

A team led by Didier Raoult and Bernard La Scola at Aix-Marseille University in France found one strain of virus in a highly alkaline ‘soda’ lake in Brazil and the other at a depth of 3,000 metres in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brazil. Both strains can infect amoebae, and both belong to a new group that the team calls Tupanviruses. A covering of small fibres gives the viruses a fuzzy appearance.

The viruses contain genes for nearly all of the machinery that cells use to synthesize proteins. Viruses tend to borrow the protein-making machinery of their host cells, and there is no evidence yet that Tupanviruses use their own protein-making gear to encode proteins.