Giant newfound ‘Medusa’ virus turns amoebas to ‘stone’

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Just like the legendary monster Medusa, a newfound large virus turns its host to “stone.” However, fortunately for us, its hosts are amoebas.

Now referred to as Medusavirus for its seemingly legendary powers, the unusual virus was pulled from the muddy waters of a scorching spring in Japan, in accordance with a brand new examine, revealed Feb. 6 within the Journal of Virology. Medusavirus belongs to a gaggle generally known as ” large viruses,” which have exceptionally massive genomes in contrast with most different viruses.

The virus infects single-celled organisms generally known as Acanthamoeba castellanii, a kind of amoeba. When the researchers contaminated these amoebas in lab dishes, they discovered that the virus prompted the amoebas to develop a thick outer “shell” and enter a dormant state generally known as encystment. (The amoeba can naturally enter this state in response to emphasize in its surroundings.) That conduct reminded the researchers of the mythological monster Medusa, who, in accordance with Greek mythology, may flip onlookers to stone along with her gaze. [Going Viral: 6 New Findings About Viruses]

Whereas the virus does not sport a head filled with writhing snakes, researchers discovered a just-as-amazing, distinctive characteristic on Medusavirus’ outer floor: greater than 2,600 spherical-headed spikes, in accordance with the examine, led by researchers at Kyoto College and Tokyo College of Science in Japan. The virus is completely different sufficient from different large viruses that the researchers proposed that it ought to be labeled in a brand new household: Medusaviridae.

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Curiously, a lot of genes in Medusavirus had been additionally present in its amoeba hosts. This recommend that Medusavirus has contaminated these amoebas since “historical instances” and that the 2 microorganisms have exchanged genes over the course of evolution, the researchers stated.

“Medusavirus is a novel large virus that also preserves the traditional footprints of the virus-host evolutionary interactions,” the researchers stated in a press release.

The scientists plan to proceed to check Medusavirus with the hope of additional unraveling the evolutionary historical past of viruses and cells.

Initially revealed on Stay Science.

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