David Prangishvili and Mart Krupovic

The citation for this ICTV Report chapter is the summary published as Prangishvili et al., (2018):
ICTV Virus Taxonomy Profile: Ampullaviridae, Journal of General Virology, 99: 288289.

Corresponding authors: David Prangishvili ( and Mart Krupovic (
Edited by: Andrew M. Kropinski and Stuart G. Siddell
Posted: February 2018
PDF: ICTV_Ampullaviridae.pdf


The family Ampullaviridae includes viruses with linear dsDNA genomes that replicate in hyperthermophilic archaea from the genus Acidianus (Table 1.Ampullaviridae). The virions have a unique champagne bottle-shaped morphology and consist of a nucleoprotein filament condensed into a cone-shaped core, which is encased by an envelope, with the base of the ‘bottle’ decorated with a ring of 20 filaments. Genome replication, presumably, is carried out by the virus-encoded protein-primed family B DNA polymerase.  The bottle-shaped morphology is unprecedented among viruses of bacteria and eukaryotes and represents a group of archaea-specific virion morphotypes.

Table 1.Ampullaviridae. Characteristics of members of the family Ampullaviridae. 



Typical member

Acidianus bottle-shaped virus (EF432053), species Acidianus bottle-shaped virus, genus Ampullavirus


Bottle shaped; 230 nm long, 4–75 nm wide; the flat terminus is decorated with 20 nm-long filaments; envelope encases a cone-shaped nucleoprotein core


Linear, dsDNA (23,814 bp) with 590 bp terminal inverted repeats


Virus-encoded protein-primed family B DNA polymerase


Not characterised

Host range

Hyperthermophilic archaea from the genus Acidianus; non-lytic


Single genus with a single species; two related genomes have been obtained from metagenomics studies



The virion of Acidianus bottle shaped virus (ABV) is enveloped, resembles in its shape a bottle and has an overall length of about 230 nm and a width varying from about 75 nm, at the broad end, to 4 nm, at the pointed end (Figure 1.Ampullaviridae). The broad end of the virion exhibits 20 (±2) thin rigid filaments (20 nm long and 3 nm in width), which appear to be interconnected at their bases and regularly distributed around, and inserted into, a disc or ring. The 9 nm thick envelope encases a cone-shaped core formed by a torroidally supercoiled nucleoprotein filament, 7 nm in width. The bottle-shaped morphology is unprecedented among viruses of bacteria and eukaryotes  and represents a group of archaea-specific virion morphotypes (Prangishvili et al., 2017).

Figure 1.Ampullaviridae. Negative-contrast electron micrographs of native (left) and partially degraded (right) virions of an isolate of Acidianus bottle-shaped virus. Schematic representation of the virion (bottom right). The scale bars represent 100 nm. (Modified with permission from (Häring et al., 2005))

Physicochemical and physical properties

ABV virion buoyant density in sucrose is about 1.3 g cm−3. The virions are fragile and partially disassembled after high speed ultracentrifugation as well as by prolonged storage. The pointed end of the virion, rather than the broad end, is likely to be involved in adsorption to the host cell surface (Häring et al., 2005).

Nucleic acid

ABV virions contain a single molecule of double-stranded (ds) DNA of 23,814 bp with 590 bp inverted terminal repeats. The GC content of the genome is 35% (Peng et al., 2007).


The ABV virion is enveloped but the exact lipid content of the viral envelope has not been characterized.


ABV virions carry six major proteins of 15–80 kDa (Häring et al., 2005).

Genome organization and replication

The linear dsDNA genome of ABV is predicted to encode 57 proteins (Peng et al., 2007) (Figure 2.Ampullaviridae). Fifteen pairs of genes show small overlaps. Three genes contain putative internal start codons with ribosome-binding sites. The genome encodes a DNA polymerase, a putative glycosyltransferase, a thymidylate kinase, a Cas4-like endonuclease and two putative DNA-binding proteins with a winged helix-turn-helix and ribbon-helix-helix motifs, respectively. All these proteins are conserved in the two other, as yet unclassified, ampullavirus genomes (Acidianus bottle-shaped virus 2 , ABV2 and Acidianus bottle-shaped virus 3, ABV3) described in metagenomics studies (Figure 2.Ampullaviridae) (Gudbergsdóttir et al., 2016). Other predicted proteins have no known homologues.  A potential 200 nt RNA transcript has predicted secondary structure highly similar to that of the prohead RNA of Bacillus phage phi29 and may be involved in genome packaging. The viral DNA polymerase is apparently responsible for genome replication. Its properties, predicted from sequence analysis, imply a protein-primed genome replication model (Peng et al., 2007).

Figure 2.Ampullaviridae. Genome organisation of Acidianus bottle-shaped virus (ABV) and comparison with the related, unclassified viruses ABV2 and ABV3. The square indicates the position of the predicted non-coding RNA gene. Functionally annotated genes shared by the three viruses are highlighted with different colors. Abbreviations: DNAP, DNA polymerase; Cas4-like, Cas4-like nuclease; TK, thymidylate kinase; RHH, ribbon-helix-helix motif; GTase, glycosyltransferase; wHTH, winged helix-turn-helix motif.


Acidianus bottle-shaped virus was isolated from a hot acidic spring (87–93 °C, pH 1.5–2.0) in Pozzuoli, Italy. The host range is limited to autochthonous species of hyperthermophilic archaea from the genus Acidianus. ABV virions are released without apparent host cell lysis. Virus infection increases a generation time of the host from about 24 hours to about 48 hours. Release of particles is observed only in the stationary growth phase of the host culture (Häring et al., 2005).

Derivation of names

Ampulla: From Latin ampulla, for “bottle”.

Relationships within the family

Related, unclassified, viruses have been identified by metagenomics studies of material from hot springs in Iceland, Italy and the USA (Figure 2.Ampullaviridae) (Gudbergsdóttir et al., 2016).

Relationships with other taxa

Most ampullavirus proteins have no known homologues. However, similar to many other hyperthermophilic archaeal viruses, ABV encodes a glycosyltransferase of the GT-B fold and a ribbon-helix-helix DNA binding protein (Krupovic et al., 2018). Protein-primed DNA polymerases homologous to that encoded by Acidianus bottle-shaped virus have also been described in members of the archaeal virus genera Gammapleolipovirus (family Pleolipoviridae) and Salterprovirus as well as in bacterial and eukaryotic viruses of the families Tectiviridae, Podoviridae (subfamily Picovirinae), Adenoviridae and Lavidaviridae (genus Mavirus) (Krupovic et al., 2018). Ampullaviruses, along with other archaeal viruses, may represent ancestral virus forms no longer observed amongst extant prokaryotic or eukaryotic viruses (Prangishvili 2015).

Member taxa