Molecular insight into viral infection of Methanoarchaea and their respective viruses

While bacteriophages have been subject of extensive studies, information on viruses that target archaea is comparably limited, while especially little is known about non-extremophilic viruses in the highly abundant mesophilic environments and only a few of those archaeal viruses have been isolated so far.

The project in general addresses viral infection of Methanoarchaea. In the first part it aims to study and understand the interaction between Methanosarcina mazei and its recent isolated lytic virus Methanosarcina Spherical Virus (MetSV) on a molecular level. Overall, we will provide important insights into the infection cycle, e.g. the function of small proteins within the infection cycle particularly focusing on those predicted to have anti-CRISPR, and into virus encoded sRNAs and their functions during the infection cycle.

In a second part we aim to initiate studying methanoarchaeal viruses present in human gastrointestinal tracts to predict and in future also evaluate impacts of methanoarchaeal viruses on the human gut microbiome.

Figure 1: Genome organization and new annotation of MetSV. Apparent compartmentalization with potential small anti host defense proteins (left) and a structural region (including capsid, spike and envelope proteins). Zinc ribbon (CxxC….CxxC [ZnR]) and helix-turn-helix motiv (HTH) containing proteins were marked.

Principal Investigator(s)

Prof. Dr. Ruth A. Schmitz-Streit
Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel
Institute of General Microbiology



PhD student(s)

Brian Barüske


Dr. Katrin Weidenbach (


  • Weidenbach K, Nickel L, Neve H, Alkhnbashi OS, Künzel S, Krupczok A, Bauersachs T, Tholey A, Schmitz RA (2017) MSV, a novel archaeal lytic virus targeting Methanosarcina strains. Journal of Virology 2017 Sep 6. 91(22). pii: e00955-17. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00955-17.
  • Chibani CM, Mahnert A, Borrel G, Almeida A, Werner A, Brugère J-F, Gribaldo S, Finn RD, Schmitz RA, Moissl-Eichinger C (2020) A comprehensive analysis of the global human gut archaeome from a thousand genome catalogue. bioRxiv 2020.11.21.392621; doi: 10.1101/2020.11.21.392621
  • Borrel G, Brugère JF, Gribaldo S, Schmitz RA, Moissl-Eichinger C (2020) The host-associated archaeome. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 1-15, DOI: 10.1038/s41579-020-0407-y