Giant viruses of the Kutch Desert
Received: 12 October 2015 / Accepted: 2 December 2015 / Published online: 14 December 2015
Ó Springer-Verlag Wien 2015
Abstract The Kutch Desert (Great Rann of Kutch,
Gujarat, India) is a unique ecosystem: in the larger part of
the year it is a hot, salty desert that is ﬂooded regularly in
the Indian monsoon season. In the dry season, the crys-
tallized salt deposits form the ‘‘white desert’’ in large
regions. The ﬁrst metagenomic analysis of the soil samples
of Kutch was published in 2013, and the data were
deposited in the NCBI Sequence Read Archive. At the
same time, the sequences were analyzed phylogenetically
for prokaryotes, especially for bacteria. In the present
work, we identiﬁed DNA sequences of recently discovered
giant viruses in the soil samples from the Kutch Desert.
Since most giant viruses have been discovered in bioﬁlms
in industrial cooling towers, ocean water, and freshwater
ponds, we were surprised to ﬁnd their DNA sequences in
soil samples from a seasonally very hot and arid, salty
The discovery of new giant viruses caused considerable
excitement in virology in the last decade: these viruses are
larger than numerous bacteria and may have even more
than 2,500 genes [3, 5, 14, 16]. They are parasitic to
amoeba cells living in freshwater reservoirs or seawater
habitats. Until now, they were not reported to be found in
soil samples or in an arid environment.
Acanthamoeba polyphaga mimivirus was ﬁrst found in a
cooling tower of Bradford, England, in 1992 and was later
identiﬁed as the ﬁrst giant virus in 2003 . Its genome
consists of 800,000 basis pairs (bp).
Marseillevirus was found in the bioﬁlm of a cooling
tower near Paris ; its genome contains 368,000 bp.
Cafeteria roenbergensis virus (CroV) was discovered in
seawater off the Texas coast in the early 1990s [6, 7]; its
genome contains 730,000 bp.
Megavirus chilensis  was discovered in 2010 in a
seawater sample off the coast of Chile; it has a 1.2-million-
bp DNA that encodes 1,100 proteins.
Pandoraviruses  were discovered in 2013, and they
have the largest genomes of any viruses known. Their
diameter is close to 1 lm. Pandoravirus salinus was found
in seawater off the coast of Chile and has a 2.5-million-bp
genome that encodes around 2,500 proteins. Pandoravirus
dulcis was found in a garden pond in Latrobe University,
Melbourne, Australia and has a 1.9-million-bp genome.
Samba virus  was found in surface water samples of
the Amazon river system in Brazil. Its 1,200,000-bp-long
DNA encodes 938 proteins.
Pithovirus sibericum was identiﬁed in a thirty-thousand-
year-old frozen Siberian sample . Its 610-kbp-long
genome encodes 467 proteins.
Mollivirus sibericum was also identiﬁed from the same
sample containing Pithovirus sibericum . Its genome
size is 651 kbp, and it has 523 protein-coding genes.
It has been reported  that DNA strands similar to that
of a mimivirus can be found in the Sargasso Sea environ-
mental sequences database .
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this
article (doi:10.1007/s00705-015-2720-8) contains supplementary
material, which is available to authorized users.
& Vince Grolmusz
PIT Bioinformatics Group, Eo
s University, Pa
stny. 1/C, 1117 Budapest, Hungary
Uratim Ltd., 1118 Budapest, Hungary
Arch Virol (2016) 161:721–724