CNRS - UMR7256
Mediterranean Institute of Microbiology (IMM, FR3479)
Scientific Parc of Luminy - 163 Avenue of Luminy - Case 934
FR- 13288, Marseille cedex 09, France
Phone: +33 4 91 82 54 20 - Fax : +33 4 91 82 54 21
Our laboratory was created in 1995, by combining expertises in structural biology, genomics and bioinformatics. For the first ten years, we have been pioneers in the sequencing of many bacterial genomes, in the field of structural genomics and in the development of the relevant bioinformatics tools.
Following our involvement in the characterization of the first "giant" virus (Mimivirus) in 2003, our laboratory quickly focused on the study of these new viruses, making the bet that Mimivirus was not an isolated evolutionary freak, but a first glance at a whole new virology area remained hidden because of historical biases in isolation protocols (namely filtration). Our intuition was also that through their astonishing properties, giant viruses could shed new light on the emergence of the cellular world and its relationship with contemporary viruses.
This change in direction was rewarded by the discovery of a multitude of more or less distant Mimivirus relatives, now forming the large family of Mimiviridae, some members of which play an essential role in the regulation of oceanic plankton populations. In parallel, the exploration of diverse environments quickly led us to the discovery of three other families of giant viruses (ie, visibles under the light microscope), without phylogenetic relationship with the Mimiviridae family. The prototypes of these three families are Pandoravirus salinus, Pithovirus sibericum and Mollivirus sibericum. The isolation of the last two viruses from a 30,000-year-old permafrost sample added a new concern to the potentially dreadful consequences of global warming.
While remaining in search of more giant viruses in the environment, our laboratory devotes an increasing part of its activity to the elucidation of the molecular and cellular processes accompanying the replication of the giant viruses, hence to the function of their genes, most of which have no counterpart in the contemporary cellular world.