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Study Reveals Link Between HIV and Hot Spring Virus

Study Reveals Link Between HIV and Hot Spring Virus


Scientists have uncovered a connection between HIV and a virus found in volcanic springs.

New research has uncovered a surprising link between HIV and a virus found in hot springs, such as those within Yellowstone National Park.

Scientists from Montana State University and Indiana University discovered that the Sulfolobs turreted icosahedral virus (STIV), which attacks microorganisms native to volcanic springs known as archaea, relies on its host’s protein complexes to complete its life cycle. This dependence on these protein complexes, called Endosomal Sorting Complexes Required for Transport, or ESCRT, mirrors the behavior of HIV and other viruses, such as Ebola, in humans.

"The new work yields insight into the evolution of the relationship between hosts and viruses and, more importantly, presents us with a new and simple model system to study how viruses can hijack and utilize cellular machineries," Stephen D. Bell, a professor in the department of molecular and cellular biochemistry at the University of Indiana, told

Researchers implemented a method known as two-hybrid screening, used in molecular biology, to analyze the relationship between STIV and ESCRT. Through this process, they discovered that the STIV’s method of reproduction — binding to its host’s DNA to replicate more viral particles — was similar to the actions of HIV. In addition, scientists discovered that Vps4, a protein found in a human’s HIV budding site, is also present in STIV-infected cells.

In humans as well as animals and plants, ESCRT is an essential component in the process of cell division. Its presence within archaea and its vulnerability to viruses similar to HIV points to an ancient bond that unites these different forms of life.

"These parallels support the idea that the cellular ESCRT is ancient and that it is likely to have evolved prior to archaea and eukarya separating to become different domains of life," Bell stated.

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