Until recently there was little interest or information on viruses and viruslike particles of eukaryotic algae. However, this situation is changing. In the past decade many large double-stranded DNA-containing viruses that infect two culturable, unicellular, eukaryotic green algae have been discovered. These viruses can be produced in large quantities, assayed by plaque formation, and analyzed by standard bacteriophage techniques. The viruses are structurally similar to animal iridoviruses, their genomes are similar to but larger (>300 kbp) than that of poxviruses, and their infection process resembles that of bacteriophages. Some of the viruses have DNAs with low levels of methylated bases, whereas others have DNAs with high concentrations of 5-methylcytosine and N6-methyladenine. Virus-encoded DNA methyltransferases are associated with the methylation and are accompanied by virus-encoded DNA site-specific (restriction) endonucleases. Some of these enzymes have sequence specificities identical to those of known bacterial enzymes, and others have previously unrecognized specificities. A separate rod-shaped RNA-containing algal virus has structural and nucleotide sequence affinities to higher plant viruses. Quite recently, viruses have been associated with rapid changes in marine algal populations. In the next decade we envision the discovery of new algal viruses, clarification of their role in various ecosystems, discovery of commercially useful genes in these viruses, and exploitation of algal virus genetic elements in plant and algal biotechnology.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology