Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New study: Algae virus can jump to mammalian cells


Verdict still out on whether virus causes slower cognition

New research led by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has provided the first direct evidence that an algae-infecting virus can invade and potentially replicate within some mammalian cells.

This optical image shows a cell (in blue) with the ATCV-1 viral particles.

Credit: University Communications/University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Known as Acanthocystis turfacea chlorella virus 1, or ATCV-1, the pathogen is among a class of chloroviruses long believed to take up residence only in green algae. That thinking changed with a 2014 study from Johns Hopkins University and UNL that found gene sequences resembling those of ATCV-1 in throat swabs of human participants.

The new study, published in the Journal of Virology, introduced ATCV-1 to macrophage cells that serve critical functions in the immune responses of mice, humans and other mammals. By tagging the virus with fluorescent dye and assembling three-dimensional images of mouse cells, the authors determined that ATCV-1 successfully infiltrated them.

The authors also measured a three-fold increase in ATCV-1 within 24 hours of introducing the virus. The relatively modest spike nevertheless suggests that ATCV-1 can replicate within the macrophage cells, according to co-author David Dunigan.

Though a few studies have documented viruses jumping from one biological kingdom to another, chloroviruses were previously thought to have a limited "host range" that stopped well short of the animal kingdom, Dunigan said.

"A few years ago, no one I know would have made a prediction like this," said Dunigan, research professor of plant pathology and member of the Nebraska Center for Virology. "You probably would've been laughed out of the room. But we are now in the middle of something that is so very interesting."

The macrophage cells underwent multiple changes characteristic of those breached by a virus, Dunigan said. These changes eventually included a form of programmed death that virologists consider an innate "scorched earth" defense against the spread of viruses, which require living cells to survive and replicate.

Before dying, the cells exhibited multiple signs of stress that tentatively support links to mild cognitive impairments first reported in the 2014 paper, available at The new study measured a post-viral rise in interleukin 6, a cellular protein that previous research has linked with diminished spatial learning and certain neurological diseases. The authors also reported an increase in nitric oxide, an important signaling molecule that has been associated with memory impairments when produced in excess.

The 2014 investigation, which was initially designed to test the cognitive functioning of human participants, found that those with the ATCV-1 DNA performed slightly worse on measures of visual processing and visual motor speed. Mice inoculated with the virus showed similar deficits in memory and attention while navigating mazes. The 2014 paper further suggested that ATCV-1 altered the expression of more than 1,000 genes in the rodent hippocampus, an area of the brain tied to memory and spatial navigation.

The new study's authors are continuing their collaboration with Johns Hopkins in the hope of ultimately confirming whether and how the virus contributes to any cognitive deficits suggested by the initial studies.

"It is still unclear whether the factors induced by the cell-based virus challenge could also be induced in the whole animal, and whether the induced factors cause cognitive impairments in the animal or the human," said co-author Tom Petro, professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Dunigan said he and his colleagues are also searching for other cellular responses to ATCV-1 while investigating how these responses might drive systemic changes in mice.

"These are pretty big, unexplored questions," Dunigan said. "There are so many very basic virological questions that we can and want to ask."


The study was co-authored by James Van Etten, a William Allington Distinguished Professor of plant pathology; Irina Agarkova, research assistant professor of plant pathology; You Zhou, research professor at the Morrison Microscopy Core Research Facility of the Center for Biotechnology; and Robert Yolken, director of the Stanley Neurovirology Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University.

The team's research was supported in part by the National Center for Research Resources, part of the National Institutes of Health, under grant number P30-RR031151.

Media Contact

David Dunigan


David Dunigan | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht When fat cells change their colour
28.10.2016 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Aquaculture: Clear Water Thanks to Cork
28.10.2016 | Technologie Lizenz-Büro (TLB) der Baden-Württembergischen Hochschulen GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Prototype device for measuring graphene-based electromagnetic radiation created

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma

28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

When fat cells change their colour

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>