Some viruses can replicate without passing all their genes into any one cell.
For a virus, a compact genome neatly packaged in a coat of proteins, survival is all about invading a cell, taking over the protein-making machinery to replicate itself and then spreading to other cells. To do this successfully, it might seem self-evident that the entirety of a virus’s small genome would have to be inside an infected cell. A new study recently published in eLife, however, overturns that assumption.
Not only are some viruses split into multiple segments that infect host cells separately, but as researchers in France have now discovered, those fractured viruses can flourish with their genomes scattered like puzzle pieces across a multitude of host cells. Something — presumably, the diffusion of molecules among the infected cells — allows complete viral particles to replicate, self-assemble and infect anew.