Giant Viruses Have CRISPR-like Immune System

Posted: Mar 1 2016, 6:56am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Giant Viruses Have CRISPR-like Immune System
Computer artwork of a particle of the giant mimivirus. Credit: Jose Antonio Penas/Science Photo Library
  • A Giant Virus has its own Special Built-In Immune System for Protection

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A giant virus has been discovered by scientists. It has its own special built-in immune system for protection from other viruses.

It is a giant virus and it has its own CRISPR system in the same manner as bacteria have. A microbiologist at a university in France is responsible for the discovery.

He is a specialist in the art of discovering viruses. This newly found giant virus is termed the mimivirus and it has a very complex immune system that can protect itself against other invader viruses.

The study, published in the journal Nature News, has proven beyond a shadow of doubt that mimiviruses are a fourth additional category in the current system of classification.

These viruses typically grow inside amoebas. The Woese System holds there to be three different cellular organisms: Bacteria, Archaea and Eukarya.

However, now it appears like all that is about to change. About ten years ago, these giant viruses with complex immune systems were being studied too. They are in fact so huge that they can be seen under an ordinary microscope. An electron microscope isn’t necessary to view these living entities.

The giant viruses can get ill when they are attacked by other viruses. These other viruses are known as virophages. When the researchers tried to artificially infect a giant virus with a virophage, they discovered to their surprise that it resisted the infection.

That was when the special CRISPR immune systems of these giant viruses came out in the open. CRISPR stands for clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats.

This miracle of biology is found in Archaea and Bacteria. The mimivirus actually stores genetic flotsam and jetsam from the virophages that try to infect it on a regular basis.

Later on the giant virus consults its stored database for any resemblance of the viruses that attack it to the ones already in its system. If it happens to be a virophage, it sends its antibodies to destroy it via a chopping down of its DNA into smaller segments.

The researchers have yet to figure out the inner machinations of this complex and puzzling giant virus on an extensive basis. The exact mechanism through which it carries out its act of defiance is still a mystery of sorts.

These mimiviruses are very ancient creatures and they may hold the secrets of processes that will be useful to science in the future. In such areas as gene editing, this giant virus could serve as a natural agent that may be imitated by mankind.

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