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Biologists discovered viruses that manage their victims' metabolism

Molecular biologists from the US found in algae multiple viruses that can not only multiply in their cells but also manipulate their metabolism, TASS reported, cited by BTA.
“In the past, we thought that there was little in common between the genes of viruses and living cells. We have now reached a stage where we can point out a small number of unique genes present only in cells or viruses. From the point of view of genomic repertoire, they turned out to be much more similar than we expected,” said Frank Aylward, associate professor at the University of Technology in Virginia, USA.

Over the past few years, biologists have discovered numerous viruses that feature unusually large sizes. Their genome almost does not retreat in length and degree of complexity from the way the DNA of living organisms on which they parasitize is developed.

Their most interesting feature is that similar giant viruses (NCLDV), as scientists call them, strongly blurred the line between full-fledged living things and viruses. The reason is that the genome of these parasites contains not only instructions on how to overcome cell defenses and multiply inside them, but also genes for producing proteins that are not directly related to the multiplication of the virus.

A significant proportion of the five hundred viruses studied by Aylward and his team contained large segments of DNA intended to manage algae metabolism. In the genome of some of them there were almost whole chains of genes responsible for glucose degradation, as well as other important parts of the metabolism of living organisms.

In other words, the virus not only uses cells as a factory for their reproduction, but also establishes control over them. According to scientists, when infected, fundamental aspects of life change. “While we can't call viruses living beings, they play an important role in the balance of nutrients and in the work of all aquatic ecosystems in the world,” says Aylward.

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