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features of viruses in general:

  • Viruses differ from rickettsiae in that they all must convert to a non-infective 'eclipse phase' form during replication & that the synthetic processes during replication take place in the host cell cytoplasm & not within the organism itself as in all other classes of organisms.
  • A single virus particle, called a virion, is made up of a core consisting of a single molecule of nucleic acid, & a surrounding protein shell called a capsid.
  • Some viruses are also ensheathed in one or more outer membranes, or envelopes, composed predominantly of lipid, derived in part from the host cell or nuclear membrane prior to the release of the virus. Enveloped viruses are vulnerable to fat solvents such as ether or bile salts.
  • Larger viruses (esp. pox viruses), also contain carbohydratess, co-enzymes & even some enzymes (eg. lipase, catalase, phosphatase & polymerases) but none contain all enzymes necessary for its own metabolism thus all viruses are obligate intracellular parasites.
  • Plant viruses all contain RNA, whereas nearly all bacteriophages contain DNA.
  • Most RNA viruses contain a single strand (except reoviruses) whilst most DNA viruses contain a double strand (except parvoviruses).


Baltimore Taxonomy (abbreviated)

Viruses may be classified into 20 mammalian families by mode of replication:

DNA viruses:

Class I:
  • Double-stranded DNA → RNA polymerase → mRNA
  • Replicate via DNA polymerase;
  • Use host RNA polymerase (most):
    • a) use host DNA polymerase:
      • adenoviridae
    • b) have own DNA polymerase:
      • herpetoviridae - enveloped, 3 groups of human viruses:
        • neurotropic alpha group:
        • lymphotropic, roseola beta group:
          • CMV, exanthem subitum: human herpesvirus-6 and human herpesvirus-7
          • HHV-5 aka CMV
          • HHV-6B spreads via saliva and infects nearly all children and causes roseola and febrile seizures
          • HHV-6A may account for 40% of unexplained infertility and 10% of all female infertility 1)
        • gamma group:
      • hepadnaviridae
        • hepatitis B virus (partially ds DNA)
          • has reverse transcriptase activity
          • genomic replication via RNA intermed.!
      • papovaviridae (PApilloma, POlyoma, Simian Vacuolating Agent):
        • polyomavirus (non-enveloped) (see web article):
          • BK & JC viruses:
            • transmission via oral/resp. route
            • primary infection usually in childhood & causes mild respiratory illness then remain latent in urogenital tract
            • asymptomatic reactivation & intermittent shedding of virus & uroepithelial cells in urine occurs spontaneously in immunocompetent persons but are more frequent in those with altered cellular immunity (eg. pregnancy, chemotherapy, HIV-1, allograft recipients)
            • BK (disc. 1971 from immunosuppressed kidney transplant pt)
              • worldwide seroprevalence in adults is 60-80%
              • may cause haemorrhagic cystitis or BK viral nephropathy, but overt disease is rare & usually associated with immunocompromise
              • reactivation appears to be cause of severe renal allograft dysfunction
              • found in some human tumours but ? causal
            • JC (disc. 1971 from pt with Progressive Multifocal Leukencephalopathy)
              • causes Progressive Multifocal Leukencephalopathy esp. in immunocompromised pts
          • simian virus 40 (disc. 1961)
  • Have own RNA & DNA polymerase:
    • poxviridae
      • do not have as much ability to mutate as RNA viruses
      • all share a DNA sequence with similar antigens that demonstrate cross-reactivity
      • their virulence and ability to escape the immune system are noteworthy
      • chordopoxvirinae
        • avipoxvirus (birds)
        • centapoxvirus (yoka pox)
        • cervidpoxvirus (mule deer pox)
        • crocodylidpoxvirus (Nile crocodile pox)
        • leporipoxvirus (myxoma pox)
        • molluscipoxvirus (molluscum contagiosum)
        • orthopoxvirus
          • variola (human smallpox SPX) - killed 300 million people in the 20thC with a mortality rate of 10-75%, eradicated (except in labs with risk of biological warfare use in populations now without herd immunity) in 1980 via vaccination
          • vaccinia (vesicular vaccinated lesions)
          • cowpox
          • monkeypox / mpox (MPVX) - squirrels, dormice, rodents, and non-human primates; human MPVX (H-MPVX)
          • buffalo pox
          • rabbit pox
          • racoon pox
          • camel pox
        • yatapoxvirus
          • tanapox (monkeys)
          • yabapox (monkeys)
        • suipoxvirus (swinepox)
        • parapoxvirus
          • pseudocowpox
          • orf (sheep)
        • capripoxvirus (goat pox, sheep pox, lumpy skin disease)
      • entomopoxvirinae - insect pox viruses
Class II: Single-stranded DNA
  • parvoviridae - Norwalk agent

RNA viruses:

  • unique as the only organisms that use RNA instead of DNA.
  • replication is complex & depends on whether contains single- or double- stranded RNA.
  • RNA that acts as mRNA is termed a positive strand.
Double-stranded RNA viruses:
  • Class III:
    • Double-stranded RNA → viral RNA polymerase → mRNA
    • reoviridae - reovirus, rotavirus, orbivirus (Colorado tick fever)
Single-stranded RNA viruses:
  • Class IV:
    • Replication of plus-stranded viruses in which the input strand functions as mRNA:
      • picornaviridae:
        • enterovirus: poliovirus, Coxsackie, ECHO
        • rhinovirus
        • cardiovirus
        • aphthovirus - foot and mouth virus
        • parechovirus - mostly mild rash/diarrhoeal illness but may cause severe neonatal illness involving CNS or causing a sepsis-like illness
      • togaviridae: - enveloped
        • rubivirus: rubella
        • alphavirus: Western equine encephalitis virus; Sindbis virus; Semliki forest virus;
      • flavaviridae:
      • caliciviridae:
      • astroviridae - non-enveloped causes infantile gastro.
        • arteriviruses
        • sequiviridae
        • nodaviridae - mainly non-human
      • Nidovirales - enveloped, positive-strand RNA viruses which infect vertebrates and invertebrates
        • large genome Nidovirales
        • small genome Nidovirales:
          • Abnidovirineae
            • Abyssoviridae - infect sea hares
          • Arnidovirineae
            • Arteriviridae - infect vertebrates
              • Variarterivirinae - mainly rodents
              • Heroarterivirinae - mainly rodents
          • Mesnidovirineae
            • Mesoniviridae - infect mosquitoes
          • Monidovirineae
            • Mononiviridae - infect flatworms
          • Tornidovirineae
            • Tobaniviridae - infect mammals, fish, snakes
              • Torovirus - gastro in mammals
          • Nanidovirinae
  • Class V:
    • Replication of minus-stranded RNA viruses in which mRNA is complementary to input RNA: (All enveloped)
    • orthomyxoviridae: influenza
    • order Mononegavirales:
  • Class VI:
    • RNA retroviruses → reverse transcriptase → DNA
    • HTLV-1, HIV / AIDS

Typical Viral Genome Parts & Their Protein Products:

  • POL - reverse transcriptase (polymerase)
  • GAG - group antigen protein
  • protease
  • integrase
  • ribonuclease
  • ENV - viral coat protein
  • trans… activation
  • regulatory parts:
    • eg. HIV: act on TAR part LTR
    • NB. NF-KB from cytokines & HTLV-1 tax may also act on TAR → replication HIV;
  • virokines:
    • esp. DNA viruses;
    • act on non-infected cells to modulate progress of infection on body as whole:
    • negate interferons/TNF;
    • decrease inflammatory response;
    • block complement pathway;
    • stimulate metab. activity &/or prolif. nearby cells;
    • decr. MHC I on cell surface (eg. adenovirus, poxvirus);
  • NB. DNA viruses tend to have 10-100's of genes whereas most RNA viruses have < 12, thus for vaccinia (DNA virus) 56 out of 198 Open Reading Frames are not required for replication in cultured cells & presumably they confer survival advantage by sabotaging host immune system;
  • Thus, typical RNA retrovirus genome:
    • 5' - LTR — GAG — POL — ENV — xxx — LTR - 3'
      • where xxx = oncogene, etc;

International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) Taxonomy

DNA viruses


  • all double-stranded DNA viruses that encode the HK97 fold major capsid protein
  • Herpesvirales – the herpesviruses
  • Caudoviricetes – the tailed bacteriophages, which infect archaea and bacteria (prokaryotes)


  • all single-stranded DNA viruses that encode an endonuclease of the HUH superfamily that initiates rolling circle replication of the circular viral genome
  • includes the vast majority of identified ssDNA viruses, which are Group II: ssDNA viruses in the Baltimore classification system
  • Loebvirae - only infect bacteria
  • Sangervirae - only infect bacteria
  • Shotokuvirae
  • Trapavirae - only infect archaea


  • includes archaeal viruses that have a filamentous virion (i.e. body) and a linear, double-stranded DNA genome


  • all DNA viruses that encode major capsid proteins that contain a vertical jelly roll fold.
  • these belong to Group I: dsDNA viruses of the Baltimore classification system
  • bacteriophages in Varidnaviria are potentially a major cause of death among marine prokaryotes.
  • The most notable disease-causing viruses in Varidnaviria are adenoviruses, poxviruses, and the African swine fever virus (ASFV)

RNA viruses


  • all viruses that use a homologous RNA-dependent polymerase for replication
  • Orthornavirae
    • contains all RdRp-encoding RNA viruses, i.e. all dsRNA, +ssRNA, and -ssRNA viruses, often collectively called RNA viruses
  • Pararnavirae
    • contains all RdDp-encoding viruses, i.e. all ssRNA-RT and dsDNA-RT viruses, collectively called reverse transcribing viruses
    • Arterviricota
      • Revtraviricetes

satellite nucleic acids


  • a realm of satellite nucleic acids; presence of genomic and antigenomic ribozymes of the Deltavirus type.
  • Deltavirus - human hepatitis delta viruses
viruses.txt · Last modified: 2023/05/15 11:36 by gary1

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