5 years ago

Questions on unusual Mimivirus-like structures observed in human cells [version 1; referees: 2 approved]

Federico Caicci, Paolo Guarascio, Dan Maloney, Elena Angela Lusi
Background: Mimiviruses or giant viruses that infect amoebas have the ability to retain the Gram stain, which is usually used to colour bacteria. There is some evidence suggesting that Mimiviruses can also infect human cells. Guided by these premises, we performed a routine Gram stain on a variety of human specimens to see if we could detect the same Gram positive blue granules that identify Mimiviruses in the amoebas. Methods: We analysed 24 different human specimens (liver, brain, kidney, lymph node and ovary) using Gram stain histochemistry, electron microscopy immunogold, high resolution mass spectrometry and protein identification. Results: We detected in the human cells Gram positive granules that were distinct from bacteria. The fine blue granules displayed the same pattern of the Gram positive granules that diagnose Mimiviruses in the cytoplasm of the amoebas. Electron microscopy confirmed the presence of human Mimiviruses-like structures and mass spectrometry identified histone H4 peptides, which had the same footprints as giant viruses. However, some differences were noted: the Mimivirus-like structures identified in the human cells were ubiquitous and manifested a distinct mammalian retroviral antigenicity. Conclusions: Our main hypotheses are that the structures could be either giant viruses having a retroviral antigenicity or ancestral cellular components having a viral origin. However, other possible alternatives have been proposed to explain the nature and function of the newly identified structures.

Publisher URL: https://f1000research.com/articles/6-262/v1

DOI: 10.12688/f1000research.11007.1

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