Breaking the 1000-gene barrier for Mimivirus

Mimivirus Mimivirus, a nucleocytoplasmic large double stranded DNA virus infecting Acanthamoeba species, is the largest virus identified to date. Its icosahedral fibrillated capsid has a diameter of 750 nm. Besides its outstanding particle size, the genome of Mimivirus is also exceptional both in size and complexity. The initial sequencing revealed a linear genome of 1,181,404 nt (roughly the size of the spirochaete bacterium Treponema pallidum genome) harboring 911 protein coding genes and 6 tRNAs. Some of these genes were observed for the first time in a virus, the most salient being those involved in protein translation and DNA repair. These unique features reawaked conceptual discussions on the nature of viruses and the frontier between viruses and cellular organisms.

Breaking the 1000-gene barrier for Mimivirus using ultra-deep genome and transcriptome sequencing. (2011) Virology Journal 2011, 8:99 doi:10.1186/1743-422X-8-99
Background: Mimivirus, a giant dsDNA virus infecting Acanthamoeba, is the prototype of the mimiviridae family, the latest addition to the family of the nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses (NCLDVs). Its 1.2 Mb-genome was initially predicted to encode 917 genes. A subsequent RNA-Seq analysis precisely mapped many transcript boundaries and identified 75 new genes.FindingsWe now report a much deeper analysis using the SOLiD technology combining RNA-Seq of the Mimivirus transcriptome during the infectious cycle (202.4 Million reads), and a complete genome re-sequencing (45.3 Million reads). This study corrected the genome sequence and identified several single nucleotide polymorphisms. Our results also provided clear evidence of previously overlooked transcription units, including an important RNA polymerase subunit distantly related to Euryarchea homologues. The total Mimivirus gene count is now 1018, 11% greater than the original annotation. Conclusions: This study highlights the huge progress brought about by ultra-deep sequencing for the comprehensive annotation of virus genomes, opening the door to a complete one-nucleotide resolution level description of their transcriptional activity, and to the realistic modeling of the viral genome expression at the ultimate molecular level. This work also illustrates the need to go beyond bioinformatics-only approaches for the annotation of short protein and non-coding genes in viral genomes.

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