Alien: found a virus with DNA unfamiliar to other life forms

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — All life on Earth is closely related to each other. Even in humans and Escherichia coli, 30% of the genes are common, and even in more related organisms the proportion of common genes is much higher . But recently, biologists have discovered a virus whose DNA simply has no analogues. More than 90% of its genes are not found in any other viruses.

The discovery is described in a preprint of a scientific article published on

A team of scientists from Brazil, France and the United States was involved in viruses that infect amoeba. To do this, they studied protozoa living in the waters of the artificial Lake Pampulha in Brazil.

In the course of the work, the researchers discovered an extremely unusual virus. They named him Yaravirus brasiliensis in honor of Yara (Iara), the mythological lake maiden from the traditions of the indigenous locals, a kind of mermaid, nymph or siren.

Yaravirus has a diameter of about 80 nanometers and a genome with a length of about 45 thousand pairs of nucleotides, or 74 genes. These options are pretty common for viruses.

It turned out to be unusual that 68 of its 74 genes are completely unknown to science. Having searched over more than 8500 publicly available metagenomes , experts did not find even their distant counterparts.

It turns out that if biologists searched for yaravirus by the content of viral DNA in the medium, they simply would not have noticed it.

Interestingly, most of the known viruses that infect amoeba belong to the giant . They are hundreds of nanometers in size and thousands of genomes in genome. In addition, giant viruses have at least some elements of the apparatus for independent protein synthesis. (Prior to the discovery of the “giants”, it was believed that viruses had no ability to synthesize protein and were forced to use host cells for this.)

Yaravirus is not a giant, but the authors do not exclude that it comes from them.


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