https://phys.org/news/2020-02-huge-bacteria-eating-viruses-gap-life.html Huge bacteria-eating viruses close gap between life and non-life: Scientists have discovered hundreds of unusually large, bacteria-killing viruses with capabilities normally associated with living organisms, blurring the line between living microbes and viral machines. These phages—short for bacteriophages, so-called because they "eat" bacteria—are of a size and complexity considered typical of life, carry numerous genes normally found in bacteria and use these genes against their bacterial hosts. University of California, Berkeley, researchers and their collaborators found these huge phages by scouring a large database of DNA that they generated from nearly 30 different Earth environments, ranging from the guts of premature infants and pregnant women to a Tibetan hot spring, a South African bioreactor, hospital rooms, oceans, lakes and deep underground. more at link........ the paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2007-4 Clades of huge phages from across Earth’s ecosystems: Abstract Bacteriophages typically have small genomes1 and depend on their bacterial hosts for replication2. Here we sequenced DNA from diverse ecosystems and found hundreds of phage genomes with lengths of more than 200 kilobases (kb), including a genome of 735 kb, which is—to our knowledge—the largest phage genome to be described to date. Thirty-five genomes were manually curated to completion (circular and no gaps). Expanded genetic repertoires include diverse and previously undescribed CRISPR–Cas systems, transfer RNAs (tRNAs), tRNA synthetases, tRNA-modification enzymes, translation-initiation and elongation factors, and ribosomal proteins. The CRISPR–Cas systems of phages have the capacity to silence host transcription factors and translational genes, potentially as part of a larger interaction network that intercepts translation to redirect biosynthesis to phage-encoded functions. In addition, some phages may repurpose bacterial CRISPR–Cas systems to eliminate competing phages. We phylogenetically define the major clades of huge phages from human and other animal microbiomes, as well as from oceans, lakes, sediments, soils and the built environment. We conclude that the large gene inventories of huge phages reflect a conserved biological strategy, and that the phages are distributed across a broad bacterial host range and across Earth’s ecosystems.