Giant viruses spew their DNA through a ‘stargate.’ Now, scientists know what triggers them.

Microscopic image of an open Tupanvirus particle, a type of giant virus Giant viruses, which measure about 10 times the size of a typical cold virus, infiltrate cells and inject their DNA through a special portal known as a “stargate.” Now, detailed new images have revealed what conditions prompt this stargate to open and drive the viruses to infect.

Viruses, giant or otherwise, lack the machinery required to make copies of their DNA; the microbes are essentially just a coil of genetic material tucked inside an envelope, called a capsid. In order to survive, viruses must sneak inside a host cell, hijack the machinery within and set up a so-called viral factory to produce new viruses. Giant viruses have a special portal for this job: the stargate.


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