Viral Wars

Giant viruses defend themselves from other viruses using MIMIVIRE

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A new twist in the arms race for virus survival has been discovered (wait... are they alive in the first place?).

MIMIVIRE (mimivirus virophage resistance element) is a defence system that protects certain lineages of mimivirus from infection by the Zamilon virophage, as reported by Raoult, La Scola and colleagues in Nature. Resistant Mimivirus lineages encode insertions of a repeated Zamilon sequence within the MIMIVIRE operon, which also encodes nuclease and helicase proteins that are likely involved in cleaving Zamilon nucleic acid. Silencing the MIMIVIRE operon restores mimivirus susceptibility to Zamilon.

This seems like a good place to recall the identification of a bacteriophage defense against its bacterial host by Andrew Camilli and colleagues a few years ago. In that case, a phage-encoded CRISPR/Cas system was shown to counteract a phage inhibitory chromosomal island encoded by the host bacteria, thus evading host innate immunity.

Everyone loves a good fight, and so MIMIVRE has sparked wide interest in social and mainstream media, including Nature news and pieces by the great Carl Zimmer and Ed Yong in STAT and The Atlantic, respectively.

Nonia Pariente

Chief Editor, Nature Microbiology

I come from a mid-sized city on the northwestern coast of Spain. My interest in science initially took me to Madrid, where I finished university and received a PhD in molecular biology. In Madrid, I studied RNA virus evolution and new antiviral strategies with Esteban Domingo. I then moved to UCLA, where I focused on developing lentiviral vectors for gene therapy in Irvin Chen’s laboratory. In 2007, I made the plunge from bench to desk and joined the EMBO Reports editorial team as Reviews Editor, becoming Scientific Editor two years later and Senior Editor in 2012. At EMBO Reports, I was responsible for microbiology and immunology, among other areas, and spent many years expanding my understanding and love for all things microbial. In the summer of 2015, I joined the Nature Microbiology editorial launch team, handling all things related to virology and mycology (and for a brief while parasitology) and -after a couple of stints covering microbiology at Nature- I became the Chief Editor of Nature Microbiology in 2019. I look forward to interacting with the community and providing a venue to publish the most important advances in the field.