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1.  The ancient Virus World and evolution of cells 
Biology Direct  2006;1:29.
Recent advances in genomics of viruses and cellular life forms have greatly stimulated interest in the origins and evolution of viruses and, for the first time, offer an opportunity for a data-driven exploration of the deepest roots of viruses. Here we briefly review the current views of virus evolution and propose a new, coherent scenario that appears to be best compatible with comparative-genomic data and is naturally linked to models of cellular evolution that, from independent considerations, seem to be the most parsimonious among the existing ones.
Several genes coding for key proteins involved in viral replication and morphogenesis as well as the major capsid protein of icosahedral virions are shared by many groups of RNA and DNA viruses but are missing in cellular life forms. On the basis of this key observation and the data on extensive genetic exchange between diverse viruses, we propose the concept of the ancient virus world. The virus world is construed as a distinct contingent of viral genes that continuously retained its identity throughout the entire history of life. Under this concept, the principal lineages of viruses and related selfish agents emerged from the primordial pool of primitive genetic elements, the ancestors of both cellular and viral genes. Thus, notwithstanding the numerous gene exchanges and acquisitions attributed to later stages of evolution, most, if not all, modern viruses and other selfish agents are inferred to descend from elements that belonged to the primordial genetic pool. In this pool, RNA viruses would evolve first, followed by retroid elements, and DNA viruses. The Virus World concept is predicated on a model of early evolution whereby emergence of substantial genetic diversity antedates the advent of full-fledged cells, allowing for extensive gene mixing at this early stage of evolution. We outline a scenario of the origin of the main classes of viruses in conjunction with a specific model of precellular evolution under which the primordial gene pool dwelled in a network of inorganic compartments. Somewhat paradoxically, under this scenario, we surmise that selfish genetic elements ancestral to viruses evolved prior to typical cells, to become intracellular parasites once bacteria and archaea arrived at the scene. Selection against excessively aggressive parasites that would kill off the host ensembles of genetic elements would lead to early evolution of temperate virus-like agents and primitive defense mechanisms, possibly, based on the RNA interference principle. The emergence of the eukaryotic cell is construed as the second melting pot of virus evolution from which the major groups of eukaryotic viruses originated as a result of extensive recombination of genes from various bacteriophages, archaeal viruses, plasmids, and the evolving eukaryotic genomes. Again, this vision is predicated on a specific model of the emergence of eukaryotic cell under which archaeo-bacterial symbiosis was the starting point of eukaryogenesis, a scenario that appears to be best compatible with the data.
The existence of several genes that are central to virus replication and structure, are shared by a broad variety of viruses but are missing from cellular genomes (virus hallmark genes) suggests the model of an ancient virus world, a flow of virus-specific genes that went uninterrupted from the precellular stage of life's evolution to this day. This concept is tightly linked to two key conjectures on evolution of cells: existence of a complex, precellular, compartmentalized but extensively mixing and recombining pool of genes, and origin of the eukaryotic cell by archaeo-bacterial fusion. The virus world concept and these models of major transitions in the evolution of cells provide complementary pieces of an emerging coherent picture of life's history.
W. Ford Doolittle, J. Peter Gogarten, and Arcady Mushegian.
PMCID: PMC1594570  PMID: 16984643
2.  Mutualistic Polydnaviruses Share Essential Replication Gene Functions with Pathogenic Ancestors 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(5):e1003348.
Viruses are usually thought to form parasitic associations with hosts, but all members of the family Polydnaviridae are obligate mutualists of insects called parasitoid wasps. Phylogenetic data founded on sequence comparisons of viral genes indicate that polydnaviruses in the genus Bracovirus (BV) are closely related to pathogenic nudiviruses and baculoviruses. However, pronounced differences in the biology of BVs and baculoviruses together with high divergence of many shared genes make it unclear whether BV homologs still retain baculovirus-like functions. Here we report that virions from Microplitis demolitor bracovirus (MdBV) contain multiple baculovirus-like and nudivirus-like conserved gene products. We further show that RNA interference effectively and specifically knocks down MdBV gene expression. Coupling RNAi knockdown methods with functional assays, we examined the activity of six genes in the MdBV conserved gene set that are known to have essential roles in transcription (lef-4, lef-9), capsid assembly (vp39, vlf-1), and envelope formation (p74, pif-1) during baculovirus replication. Our results indicated that MdBV produces a baculovirus-like RNA polymerase that transcribes virus structural genes. Our results also supported a conserved role for vp39, vlf-1, p74, and pif-1 as structural components of MdBV virions. Additional experiments suggested that vlf-1 together with the nudivirus-like gene int-1 also have novel functions in regulating excision of MdBV proviral DNAs for packaging into virions. Overall, these data provide the first experimental insights into the function of BV genes in virion formation.
Author Summary
Microorganisms form symbiotic associations with animals and plants that range from parasitic (pathogens) to beneficial (mutualists). Although numerous examples of obligate, mutualistic bacteria, fungi, and protozoans exist, viruses are almost always considered to be pathogens. An exception is the family Polydnaviridae, which consists of large DNA viruses that are obligate mutualists of insects called parasitoid wasps. Prior studies show that polydnaviruses in the genus Bracovirus evolved approximately 100 million years ago from a group of viruses called nudiviruses, which are themselves closely related to a large family of insect pathogens called baculoviruses. Polydnaviruses are thus of fundamental interest for understanding the processes by which viruses can evolve into mutualists. In this study we characterized the composition of virus particles from Microplitis demolitor bracovirus (MdBV) and conducted functional experiments to assess whether BV genes share similar functions with related essential baculovirus replication genes. Our results indicate that several genes in MdBV retain ancestral functions, but select other genes have novel functions unknown from baculoviruses. Our results also provide the first experimental data on the function of polydnavirus replication genes and enhance understanding of the similarities between these viruses and their pathogenic ancestors.
PMCID: PMC3649998  PMID: 23671417
3.  Widespread Endogenization of Genome Sequences of Non-Retroviral RNA Viruses into Plant Genomes 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(7):e1002146.
Non-retroviral RNA virus sequences (NRVSs) have been found in the chromosomes of vertebrates and fungi, but not plants. Here we report similarly endogenized NRVSs derived from plus-, negative-, and double-stranded RNA viruses in plant chromosomes. These sequences were found by searching public genomic sequence databases, and, importantly, most NRVSs were subsequently detected by direct molecular analyses of plant DNAs. The most widespread NRVSs were related to the coat protein (CP) genes of the family Partitiviridae which have bisegmented dsRNA genomes, and included plant- and fungus-infecting members. The CP of a novel fungal virus (Rosellinia necatrix partitivirus 2, RnPV2) had the greatest sequence similarity to Arabidopsis thaliana ILR2, which is thought to regulate the activities of the phytohormone auxin, indole-3-acetic acid (IAA). Furthermore, partitivirus CP-like sequences much more closely related to plant partitiviruses than to RnPV2 were identified in a wide range of plant species. In addition, the nucleocapsid protein genes of cytorhabdoviruses and varicosaviruses were found in species of over 9 plant families, including Brassicaceae and Solanaceae. A replicase-like sequence of a betaflexivirus was identified in the cucumber genome. The pattern of occurrence of NRVSs and the phylogenetic analyses of NRVSs and related viruses indicate that multiple independent integrations into many plant lineages may have occurred. For example, one of the NRVSs was retained in Ar. thaliana but not in Ar. lyrata or other related Camelina species, whereas another NRVS displayed the reverse pattern. Our study has shown that single- and double-stranded RNA viral sequences are widespread in plant genomes, and shows the potential of genome integrated NRVSs to contribute to resolve unclear phylogenetic relationships of plant species.
Author Summary
Eukaryotic genomes contain sequences that have originated from DNA viruses and reverse-transcribing viruses, i.e., retroviruses, pararetroviruses (DNA viruses), and transposons. However, the sequences of non-retroviral RNA viruses, which are unable to convert their genomes to DNA, were until recently considered not to be integrated into eukaryotic nuclear genomes. We present evidence for multiple independent events of horizontal gene transfer from a wide range of RNA viruses, including plus-sense, minus-sense, and double-stranded RNA viruses, into the genomes of distantly related plant lineages. Some non-retroviral integrated RNA viral sequences are conserved across genera within a plant family, whereas others are retained only in a limited number of species in a genus. Integration profiles of non-retroviral integrated RNA viral sequences demonstrate the potential of these sequences to serve as powerful molecular tools for deciphering phylogenetic relationships among related plants. Moreover, this study highlights plants co-opting non-retroviral RNA virus sequences, and provides insights into plant genome evolution and interplay between non-reverse-transcribing RNA viruses and their hosts.
PMCID: PMC3136472  PMID: 21779172
4.  Virome Analysis for Identification of Novel Mammalian Viruses in Bat Species from Chinese Provinces 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(20):10999-11012.
Bats are natural hosts for a large variety of zoonotic viruses. This study aimed to describe the range of bat viromes, including viruses from mammals, insects, fungi, plants, and phages, in 11 insectivorous bat species (216 bats in total) common in six provinces of China. To analyze viromes, we used sequence-independent PCR amplification and next-generation sequencing technology (Solexa Genome Analyzer II; Illumina). The viromes were identified by sequence similarity comparisons to known viruses. The mammalian viruses included those of the Adenoviridae, Herpesviridae, Papillomaviridae, Retroviridae, Circoviridae, Rhabdoviridae, Astroviridae, Flaviridae, Coronaviridae, Picornaviridae, and Parvovirinae; insect viruses included those of the Baculoviridae, Iflaviridae, Dicistroviridae, Tetraviridae, and Densovirinae; fungal viruses included those of the Chrysoviridae, Hypoviridae, Partitiviridae, and Totiviridae; and phages included those of the Caudovirales, Inoviridae, and Microviridae and unclassified phages. In addition to the viruses and phages associated with the insects, plants, and bacterial flora related to the diet and habitation of bats, we identified the complete or partial genome sequences of 13 novel mammalian viruses. These included herpesviruses, papillomaviruses, a circovirus, a bocavirus, picornaviruses, a pestivirus, and a foamy virus. Pairwise alignments and phylogenetic analyses indicated that these novel viruses showed little genetic similarity with previously reported viruses. This study also revealed a high prevalence and diversity of bat astroviruses and coronaviruses in some provinces. These findings have expanded our understanding of the viromes of bats in China and hinted at the presence of a large variety of unknown mammalian viruses in many common bat species of mainland China.
PMCID: PMC3457178  PMID: 22855479
5.  Metagenomics of rumen bacteriophage from thirteen lactating dairy cattle 
BMC Microbiology  2013;13:242.
The bovine rumen hosts a diverse and complex community of Eukarya, Bacteria, Archea and viruses (including bacteriophage). The rumen viral population (the rumen virome) has received little attention compared to the rumen microbial population (the rumen microbiome). We used massively parallel sequencing of virus like particles to investigate the diversity of the rumen virome in thirteen lactating Australian Holstein dairy cattle all housed in the same location, 12 of which were sampled on the same day.
Fourteen putative viral sequence fragments over 30 Kbp in length were assembled and annotated. Many of the putative genes in the assembled contigs showed no homology to previously annotated genes, highlighting the large amount of work still required to fully annotate the functions encoded in viral genomes. The abundance of the contig sequences varied widely between animals, even though the cattle were of the same age, stage of lactation and fed the same diets. Additionally the twelve animals which were co-habited shared a number of their dominant viral contigs. We compared the functional characteristics of our bovine viromes with that of other viromes, as well as rumen microbiomes. At the functional level, we found strong similarities between all of the viral samples, which were highly distinct from the rumen microbiome samples.
Our findings suggest a large amount of between animal variation in the bovine rumen virome and that co-habiting animals may have more similar viromes than non co-habited animals. We report the deepest sequencing to date of the rumen virome. This work highlights the enormous amount of novelty and variation present in the rumen virome.
PMCID: PMC3827882  PMID: 24180266
Virome; Rumen; Bacteriophage; Metagenomics
6.  Patterns of Evolution and Host Gene Mimicry in Influenza and Other RNA Viruses 
PLoS Pathogens  2008;4(6):e1000079.
It is well known that the dinucleotide CpG is under-represented in the genomic DNA of many vertebrates. This is commonly thought to be due to the methylation of cytosine residues in this dinucleotide and the corresponding high rate of deamination of 5-methycytosine, which lowers the frequency of this dinucleotide in DNA. Surprisingly, many single-stranded RNA viruses that replicate in these vertebrate hosts also have a very low presence of CpG dinucleotides in their genomes. Viruses are obligate intracellular parasites and the evolution of a virus is inexorably linked to the nature and fate of its host. One therefore expects that virus and host genomes should have common features. In this work, we compare evolutionary patterns in the genomes of ssRNA viruses and their hosts. In particular, we have analyzed dinucleotide patterns and found that the same patterns are pervasively over- or under-represented in many RNA viruses and their hosts suggesting that many RNA viruses evolve by mimicking some of the features of their host's genes (DNA) and likely also their corresponding mRNAs. When a virus crosses a species barrier into a different host, the pressure to replicate, survive and adapt, leaves a footprint in dinucleotide frequencies. For instance, since human genes seem to be under higher pressure to eliminate CpG dinucleotide motifs than avian genes, this pressure might be reflected in the genomes of human viruses (DNA and RNA viruses) when compared to those of the same viruses replicating in avian hosts. To test this idea we have analyzed the evolution of the influenza virus since 1918. We find that the influenza A virus, which originated from an avian reservoir and has been replicating in humans over many generations, evolves in a direction strongly selected to reduce the frequency of CpG dinucleotides in its genome. Consistent with this observation, we find that the influenza B virus, which has spent much more time in the human population, has adapted to its human host and exhibits an extremely low CpG dinucleotide content. We believe that these observations directly show that the evolution of RNA viral genomes can be shaped by pressures observed in the host genome. As a possible explanation, we suggest that the strong selection pressures acting on these RNA viruses are most likely related to the innate immune response and to nucleotide motifs in the host DNA and RNAs.
Author Summary
Viruses are obligate intracellular parasites that use different strategies to sequester host cell machinery and avoid the host immune system. In this paper we explore the genomes of viruses that encode their genetic information in single-stranded RNA, a different material than the one used by their hosts (double-stranded DNA). It is interesting to observe that these viruses share some of the host's characteristics. For instance, one of the most underrepresented motifs in the DNA of vertebrates is the dinucleotide CpG. This is commonly thought to be due to methylation and deamination of cytosine residues in this dinucleotide. Surprisingly, the same CpG suppression is observed in vertebrate RNA viruses but not in RNA phages. We show that RNA viruses present similar dinucleotide pressures as their host genes. We find that the influenza A virus, which originated from an avian reservoir and replicated in humans over many generations, evolves to reduce the frequency of CpG dinucleotides mimicking the human genes. Influenza B, which has been in humans longer, exhibits an extremely low CpG dinucleotide content. These observations suggest that the evolution of RNA viruses is shaped by pressures observed in the host genome.
PMCID: PMC2390760  PMID: 18535658
7.  Diversification of Rice Yellow Mottle Virus and Related Viruses Spans the History of Agriculture from the Neolithic to the Present 
PLoS Pathogens  2008;4(8):e1000125.
The mechanisms of evolution of plant viruses are being unraveled, yet the timescale of their evolution remains an enigma. To address this critical issue, the divergence time of plant viruses at the intra- and inter-specific levels was assessed. The time of the most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) of Rice yellow mottle virus (RYMV; genus Sobemovirus) was calculated by a Bayesian coalescent analysis of the coat protein sequences of 253 isolates collected between 1966 and 2006 from all over Africa. It is inferred that RYMV diversified approximately 200 years ago in Africa, i.e., centuries after rice was domesticated or introduced, and decades before epidemics were reported. The divergence time of sobemoviruses and viruses of related genera was subsequently assessed using the age of RYMV under a relaxed molecular clock for calibration. The divergence time between sobemoviruses and related viruses was estimated to be approximately 9,000 years, that between sobemoviruses and poleroviruses approximately 5,000 years, and that among sobemoviruses approximately 3,000 years. The TMRCA of closely related pairs of sobemoviruses, poleroviruses, and luteoviruses was approximately 500 years, which is a measure of the time associated with plant virus speciation. It is concluded that the diversification of RYMV and related viruses has spanned the history of agriculture, from the Neolithic age to the present.
Author Summary
The timescale of the evolution of plant viruses is an enigma, and even its order of magnitude is unknown. This critical issue is addressed here by calculating the age of plant viruses. An accurate estimate of the age of Rice yellow mottle virus (RYMV) was obtained by statistical analysis of a set of dated sequences. The age of RYMV provides a reliable calibration of related viruses, applying recently developed relaxed molecular clock models. It was found that RYMV diversified approximately 200 years ago, and that inter-specific diversification ranged from 500 years to 9,000 years. Altogether, plant virus diversification has spanned the history of agriculture from the Neolithic age to the present. This suggests that the Neolithic was a period of epidemiological transition for plant virus diseases, as already proposed for infectious human diseases. Intrinsically, it is for the same reason: increased contacts between hosts, pathogens, and vectors. This is consistent with the view that RNA viruses have a recent origin, and that humans have become the world's greatest evolutionary force.
PMCID: PMC2495034  PMID: 18704169
8.  An Evolutionary Analysis of the Secoviridae Family of Viruses 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106305.
The plant-infecting Secoviridae family of viruses forms part of the Picornavirales order, an important group of non-enveloped viruses that infect vertebrates, arthropods, plants and algae. The impact of the secovirids on cultivated crops is significant, infecting a wide range of plants from grapevine to rice. The overwhelming majority are transmitted by ecdysozoan vectors such as nematodes, beetles and aphids. In this study, we have applied a variety of computational methods to examine the evolutionary traits of these viruses. Strong purifying selection pressures were calculated for the coat protein (CP) sequences of nine species, although for two species evidence of both codon specific and episodic diversifying selection were found. By using Bayesian phylogenetic reconstruction methods CP nucleotide substitution rates for four species were estimated to range from between 9.29×10−3 to 2.74×10−3 (subs/site/year), values which are comparable with the short-term estimates of other related plant- and animal-infecting virus species. From these data, we were able to construct a time-measured phylogeny of the subfamily Comovirinae that estimated divergence of ninety-four extant sequences occurred less than 1,000 years ago with present virus species diversifying between 50 and 250 years ago; a period coinciding with the intensification of agricultural practices in industrial societies. Although recombination (modularity) was limited to closely related taxa, significant and often unique similarities in the protein domains between secovirid and animal infecting picorna-like viruses, especially for the protease and coat protein, suggested a shared ancestry. We discuss our results in a wider context and find tentative evidence to indicate that some members of the Secoviridae might have their origins in insects, possibly colonizing plants in a number of founding events that have led to speciation. Such a scenario; virus infection between species of different taxonomic kingdoms, has significant implications for virus emergence.
PMCID: PMC4152289  PMID: 25180860
9.  The Fecal Viral Flora of Wild Rodents 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(9):e1002218.
The frequent interactions of rodents with humans make them a common source of zoonotic infections. To obtain an initial unbiased measure of the viral diversity in the enteric tract of wild rodents we sequenced partially purified, randomly amplified viral RNA and DNA in the feces of 105 wild rodents (mouse, vole, and rat) collected in California and Virginia. We identified in decreasing frequency sequences related to the mammalian viruses families Circoviridae, Picobirnaviridae, Picornaviridae, Astroviridae, Parvoviridae, Papillomaviridae, Adenoviridae, and Coronaviridae. Seventeen small circular DNA genomes containing one or two replicase genes distantly related to the Circoviridae representing several potentially new viral families were characterized. In the Picornaviridae family two new candidate genera as well as a close genetic relative of the human pathogen Aichi virus were characterized. Fragments of the first mouse sapelovirus and picobirnaviruses were identified and the first murine astrovirus genome was characterized. A mouse papillomavirus genome and fragments of a novel adenovirus and adenovirus-associated virus were also sequenced. The next largest fraction of the rodent fecal virome was related to insect viruses of the Densoviridae, Iridoviridae, Polydnaviridae, Dicistroviriade, Bromoviridae, and Virgaviridae families followed by plant virus-related sequences in the Nanoviridae, Geminiviridae, Phycodnaviridae, Secoviridae, Partitiviridae, Tymoviridae, Alphaflexiviridae, and Tombusviridae families reflecting the largely insect and plant rodent diet. Phylogenetic analyses of full and partial viral genomes therefore revealed many previously unreported viral species, genera, and families. The close genetic similarities noted between some rodent and human viruses might reflect past zoonoses. This study increases our understanding of the viral diversity in wild rodents and highlights the large number of still uncharacterized viruses in mammals.
Author Summary
Rodents are the natural reservoir of numerous zoonotic viruses causing serious diseases in humans. We used an unbiased metagenomic approach to characterize the viral diversity in rodent feces. In addition to diet-derived insect and plant viruses mammalian viral sequences were abundant and diverse. Most notably, multiple new circular viral DNA families, two new picornaviridae genera, and the first murine astrovirus and picobirnaviruses were characterized. A mouse kobuvirus was a close relative to the Aichi virus human pathogen. This study significantly increases the known genetic diversity of eukaryotic viruses in rodents and provides an initial description of their enteric viromes.
PMCID: PMC3164639  PMID: 21909269
10.  A virus responds instantly to the presence of the vector on the host and forms transmission morphs 
eLife  2013;2:e00183.
Many plant and animal viruses are spread by insect vectors. Cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) is aphid-transmitted, with the virus being taken up from specialized transmission bodies (TB) formed within infected plant cells. However, the precise events during TB-mediated virus acquisition by aphids are unknown. Here, we show that TBs react instantly to the presence of the vector by ultra-rapid and reversible redistribution of their key components onto microtubules throughout the cell. Enhancing or inhibiting this TB reaction pharmacologically or by using a mutant virus enhanced or inhibited transmission, respectively, confirming its requirement for efficient virus-acquisition. Our results suggest that CaMV can perceive aphid vectors, either directly or indirectly by sharing the host perception. This novel concept in virology, where viruses respond directly or via the host to the outside world, opens new research horizons, that is, investigating the impact of ‘perceptive behaviors’ on other steps of the infection cycle.
eLife digest
Viruses are infectious agents that can replicate only inside a living host cell. When a virus infects an animal or plant, it introduces its own genetic material and tricks the host cells into producing viral proteins that can be used to assemble new viruses. An essential step in the life cycle of any virus is transmission to a new host: understanding this process can be crucial in the fight against viral epidemics.
Many viruses use living organisms, or vectors, to move between hosts. In the case of plant viruses such as cauliflower mosaic virus, the vectors are often aphids. When an aphid sucks sap out of a leaf, virus particles already present in the leaf become attached to its mouth, and these viruses can be transferred to the next plant that the insect feeds on. However, in order for cauliflower mosaic virus particles to become attached to the aphid, structures called transmission bodies must form beforehand in the infected plant cells. These structures are known to contain helper proteins that bind the viruses to the mouth of the aphid, but the precise role of the transmission body has remained obscure.
Now Martinière et al. show that the transmission body is in fact a dynamic structure that reacts to the presence of aphids and, in so doing, boosts the efficiency of viral transmission. In particular, they show that the action of an aphid feeding on an infected leaf triggers a rapid and massive influx of a protein called tubulin into the transmission body. The transmission body then bursts open, dispersing helper protein-virus particle complexes throughout the cell, where they become more accessible to aphids. This series of events increases viral transmission rates twofold to threefold.
The results show that a virus can detect insect vectors, likely by using the sensory system of its host, and trigger a response that boosts viral uptake and thus transmission. This is a novel concept in virology. It will be important to discover whether similar mechanisms are used by other viruses, including those that infect animals and humans.
PMCID: PMC3552618  PMID: 23358702
aphids; transmission; cell–virus–vector interactions; Arabidopsis; Viruses; Other
11.  Broad Surveys of DNA Viral Diversity Obtained through Viral Metagenomics of Mosquitoes 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e20579.
Viruses are the most abundant and diverse genetic entities on Earth; however, broad surveys of viral diversity are hindered by the lack of a universal assay for viruses and the inability to sample a sufficient number of individual hosts. This study utilized vector-enabled metagenomics (VEM) to provide a snapshot of the diversity of DNA viruses present in three mosquito samples from San Diego, California. The majority of the sequences were novel, suggesting that the viral community in mosquitoes, as well as the animal and plant hosts they feed on, is highly diverse and largely uncharacterized. Each mosquito sample contained a distinct viral community. The mosquito viromes contained sequences related to a broad range of animal, plant, insect and bacterial viruses. Animal viruses identified included anelloviruses, circoviruses, herpesviruses, poxviruses, and papillomaviruses, which mosquitoes may have obtained from vertebrate hosts during blood feeding. Notably, sequences related to human papillomaviruses were identified in one of the mosquito samples. Sequences similar to plant viruses were identified in all mosquito viromes, which were potentially acquired through feeding on plant nectar. Numerous bacteriophages and insect viruses were also detected, including a novel densovirus likely infecting Culex erythrothorax. Through sampling insect vectors, VEM enables broad survey of viral diversity and has significantly increased our knowledge of the DNA viruses present in mosquitoes.
PMCID: PMC3108952  PMID: 21674005
12.  Discovery of Novel dsRNA Viral Sequences by In Silico Cloning and Implications for Viral Diversity, Host Range and Evolution 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e42147.
Genome sequence of viruses can contribute greatly to the study of viral evolution, diversity and the interaction between viruses and hosts. Traditional molecular cloning methods for obtaining RNA viral genomes are time-consuming and often difficult because many viruses occur in extremely low titers. DsRNA viruses in the families, Partitiviridae, Totiviridae, Endornaviridae, Chrysoviridae, and other related unclassified dsRNA viruses are generally associated with symptomless or persistent infections of their hosts. These characteristics indicate that samples or materials derived from eukaryotic organisms used to construct cDNA libraries and EST sequencing might carry these viruses, which were not easily detected by the researchers. Therefore, the EST databases may include numerous unknown viral sequences. In this study, we performed in silico cloning, a procedure for obtaining full or partial cDNA sequence of a gene by bioinformatics analysis, using known dsRNA viral sequences as queries to search against NCBI Expressed Sequence Tag (EST) database. From this analysis, we obtained 119 novel virus-like sequences related to members of the families, Endornaviridae, Chrysoviridae, Partitiviridae, and Totiviridae. Many of them were identified in cDNA libraries of eukaryotic lineages, which were not known to be hosts for these viruses. Furthermore, comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of these newly discovered virus-like sequences with known dsRNA viruses revealed that these dsRNA viruses may have co-evolved with respective host supergroups over a long evolutionary time while potential horizontal transmissions of viruses between different host supergroups also is possible. We also found that some of the plant partitiviruses may have originated from fungal viruses by horizontal transmissions. These findings extend our knowledge of the diversity and possible host range of dsRNA viruses and offer insight into the origin and evolution of relevant viruses with their hosts.
PMCID: PMC3407116  PMID: 22848734
13.  Temporal order of evolution of DNA replication systems inferred by comparison of cellular and viral DNA polymerases 
Biology Direct  2006;1:39.
The core enzymes of the DNA replication systems show striking diversity among cellular life forms and more so among viruses. In particular, and counter-intuitively, given the central role of DNA in all cells and the mechanistic uniformity of replication, the core enzymes of the replication systems of bacteria and archaea (as well as eukaryotes) are unrelated or extremely distantly related. Viruses and plasmids, in addition, possess at least two unique DNA replication systems, namely, the protein-primed and rolling circle modalities of replication. This unexpected diversity makes the origin and evolution of DNA replication systems a particularly challenging and intriguing problem in evolutionary biology.
I propose a specific succession for the emergence of different DNA replication systems, drawing argument from the differences in their representation among viruses and other selfish replicating elements. In a striking pattern, the DNA replication systems of viruses infecting bacteria and eukaryotes are dominated by the archaeal-type B-family DNA polymerase (PolB) whereas the bacterial replicative DNA polymerase (PolC) is present only in a handful of bacteriophage genomes. There is no apparent mechanistic impediment to the involvement of the bacterial-type replication machinery in viral DNA replication. Therefore, I hypothesize that the observed, markedly unequal distribution of the replicative DNA polymerases among the known cellular and viral replication systems has a historical explanation. I propose that, among the two types of DNA replication machineries that are found in extant life forms, the archaeal-type, PolB-based system evolved first and had already given rise to a variety of diverse viruses and other selfish elements before the advent of the bacterial, PolC-based machinery. Conceivably, at that stage of evolution, the niches for DNA-viral reproduction have been already filled with viruses replicating with the help of the archaeal system, and viruses with the bacterial system never took off. I further suggest that the two other systems of DNA replication, the rolling circle mechanism and the protein-primed mechanism, which are represented in diverse selfish elements, also evolved prior to the emergence of the bacterial replication system. This hypothesis is compatible with the distinct structural affinities of PolB, which has the palm-domain fold shared with reverse transcriptases and RNA-dependent RNA polymerases, and PolC that has a distinct, unrelated nucleotidyltransferase fold. I propose that PolB is a descendant of polymerases that were involved in the replication of genetic elements in the RNA-protein world, prior to the emergence of DNA replication. By contrast, PolC might have evolved from an ancient non-templated polymerase, e.g., polyA polymerase. The proposed temporal succession of the evolving DNA replication systems does not depend on the specific scenario adopted for the evolution of cells and viruses, i.e., whether viruses are derived from cells or virus-like elements are thought to originate from a primordial gene pool. However, arguments are presented in favor of the latter scenario as the most parsimonious explanation of the evolution of DNA replication systems.
Comparative analysis of the diversity of genomic strategies and organizations of viruses and cellular life forms has the potential to open windows into the deep past of life's evolution, especially, with the regard to the origin of genome replication systems. When complemented with information on the evolution of the relevant protein folds, this comparative approach can yield credible scenarios for very early steps of evolution that otherwise appear to be out of reach.
Eric Bapteste, Patrick Forterre, and Mark Ragan.
PMCID: PMC1766352  PMID: 17176463
14.  Metagenomic Analysis of the Viromes of Three North American Bat Species: Viral Diversity among Different Bat Species That Share a Common Habitat▿  
Journal of Virology  2010;84(24):13004-13018.
Effective prediction of future viral zoonoses requires an in-depth understanding of the heterologous viral population in key animal species that will likely serve as reservoir hosts or intermediates during the next viral epidemic. The importance of bats as natural hosts for several important viral zoonoses, including Ebola, Marburg, Nipah, Hendra, and rabies viruses and severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus (SARS-CoV), has been established; however, the large viral population diversity (virome) of bats has been partially determined for only a few of the ∼1,200 bat species. To assess the virome of North American bats, we collected fecal, oral, urine, and tissue samples from individual bats captured at an abandoned railroad tunnel in Maryland that is cohabitated by 7 to 10 different bat species. Here, we present preliminary characterization of the virome of three common North American bat species, including big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus), tricolored bats (Perimyotis subflavus), and little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus). In samples derived from these bats, we identified viral sequences that were similar to at least three novel group 1 CoVs, large numbers of insect and plant virus sequences, and nearly full-length genomic sequences of two novel bacteriophages. These observations suggest that bats encounter and disseminate a large assortment of viruses capable of infecting many different animals, insects, and plants in nature.
PMCID: PMC3004358  PMID: 20926577
15.  Evolution of influenza A virus PB2 genes: implications for evolution of the ribonucleoprotein complex and origin of human influenza A virus. 
Journal of Virology  1990;64(10):4893-4902.
Phylogenetic analysis of 20 influenza A virus PB2 genes showed that PB2 genes have evolved into the following four major lineages: (i) equine/Prague/56 (EQPR56); (ii and iii) two distinct avian PB2 lineages, one containing FPV/34 and H13 gull virus strains and the other containing North American avian and recent equine strains; and (iv) human virus strains joined with classic swine virus strains (i.e., H1N1 swine virus strains related to swine/Iowa/15/30). The human virus lineage showed the greatest divergence from its root relative to other lineages. The estimated nucleotide evolutionary rate for the human PB2 lineage was 1.82 x 10(-3) changes per nucleotide per year, which is within the range of published estimates for NP and NS genes of human influenza A viruses. At the amino acid level, PB2s of human viruses have accumulated 34 amino acid changes over the past 55 years. In contrast, the avian PB2 lineages showed much less evolution, e.g., recent avian PB2s showed as few as three amino acid changes relative to the avian root. The completion of evolutionary analyses of the PB1, PB2, PA and NP genes of the ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex permits comparison of evolutionary pathways. Different patterns of evolution among the RNP genes indicate that the genes of the complex are not coevolving as a unit. Evolution of the PB1 and PB2 genes is less correlated with host-specific factors, and their proteins appear to be evolving more slowly than NP and PA. This suggests that protein functional constraints are limiting the evolutionary divergence of PB1 and PB2 genes. The parallel host-specific evolutionary pathways of the NP and PA genes suggest that these proteins are coevolving in response to host-specific factors. PB2s of human influenza A viruses share a common ancestor with classic swine virus PB2s, and the pattern of evolution suggests that the ancestor was an avian virus PB2. This same pattern of evolution appears in the other genes of the RNP complex. Antigenic studies of HA and NA proteins and sequence comparisons of NS and M genes also suggest a close ancestry for these genes in human and classic swine viruses. From our review of the evolutionary patterns of influenza A virus genes, we propose the following hypothesis: the common ancestor to current strains of human and classic swine influenza viruses predated the 1918 human pandemic virus and was recently derived from the avian host reservoir.
PMCID: PMC247979  PMID: 2398532
16.  Rapidly expanding genetic diversity and host range of the Circoviridae viral family and other Rep encoding small circular ssDNA genomes 
Virus Research  2011;164(1-2):114-121.
The genomes of numerous circoviruses and distantly related circular DNA viruses encoding a rolling circle replication initiator protein (Rep) have been characterized from the tissues of mammals, fish, insects, and plants (geminivirus and nanovirus), human and animal feces, in an algae cell, and in diverse environmental samples. We review the genome organization, phylogenetic relationships and initial prevalence studies of cycloviruses, a proposed new genus in the Circoviridae family. Viral fossil rep sequences were also identified integrated on the chromosomes of mammals, frogs, lancelets, crustaceans, mites, gastropods, roundworms, placozoans, hydrozoans, protozoans, land plants, fungi, algae, and phytoplasma bacterias and their plasmids, reflecting their past host range. An ancient origin for viruses with rep-encoding single stranded small circular genomes, predating the diversification of eukaryotes, is discussed. The cellular hosts and pathogenicity of many recently described rep-containing circular genomes remain to be determined. Future studies of the virome of single cell and multi-cellular eukaryotes are likely to further extend the known diversity and host-range of small rep-containing circular viral genomes.
PMCID: PMC3289258  PMID: 22155583
circovirus; cyclovirus; Circoviridae; Rep protein; deep sequencing; circular ssDNA genome
17.  Deep Evolutionary Comparison of Gene Expression Identifies Parallel Recruitment of Trans-Factors in Two Independent Origins of C4 Photosynthesis 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(6):e1004365.
With at least 60 independent origins spanning monocotyledons and dicotyledons, the C4 photosynthetic pathway represents one of the most remarkable examples of convergent evolution. The recurrent evolution of this highly complex trait involving alterations to leaf anatomy, cell biology and biochemistry allows an increase in productivity by ∼50% in tropical and subtropical areas. The extent to which separate lineages of C4 plants use the same genetic networks to maintain C4 photosynthesis is unknown. We developed a new informatics framework to enable deep evolutionary comparison of gene expression in species lacking reference genomes. We exploited this to compare gene expression in species representing two independent C4 lineages (Cleome gynandra and Zea mays) whose last common ancestor diverged ∼140 million years ago. We define a cohort of 3,335 genes that represent conserved components of leaf and photosynthetic development in these species. Furthermore, we show that genes encoding proteins of the C4 cycle are recruited into networks defined by photosynthesis-related genes. Despite the wide evolutionary separation and independent origins of the C4 phenotype, we report that these species use homologous transcription factors to both induce C4 photosynthesis and to maintain the cell specific gene expression required for the pathway to operate. We define a core molecular signature associated with leaf and photosynthetic maturation that is likely shared by angiosperm species derived from the last common ancestor of the monocotyledons and dicotyledons. We show that deep evolutionary comparisons of gene expression can reveal novel insight into the molecular convergence of highly complex phenotypes and that parallel evolution of trans-factors underpins the repeated appearance of C4 photosynthesis. Thus, exploitation of extant natural variation associated with complex traits can be used to identify regulators. Moreover, the transcription factors that are shared by independent C4 lineages are key targets for engineering the C4 pathway into C3 crops such as rice.
Author Summary
C4 photosynthesis is one of the most successful and widespread examples of convergent evolution; the first C4 plant evolved long after the extinction of the dinosaurs, yet C4 species now account for ∼30% of primary productivity on earth. Compared with ancestral C3 photosynthesis, the C4 pathway allows faster rates of growth, and thus international efforts have been mustered to introduce advantageous C4 traits into important C3 crops to increase their yield. However, the transition from C3 to C4 involves complex alterations to leaf anatomy and biochemistry. Despite these multiple changes, C4 photosynthesis has evolved independently at least 60 times. Through DNA and RNA sequencing we are beginning define a catalog of genes associated with C3 or C4 photosynthesis. However, we know little about how these genes act co-ordinately to bring about the convergent C4 phenotype. In this work we develop a new informatics framework to reveal that two independent lineages of C4 plants have co-opted the same regulators of gene expression to generate the C4 leaf. Our findings provide a new paradigm for investigating the genetics of convergent traits and the origin of convergent phenotypes. Moreover, they reveal significant new insight into the regulatory mechanisms governing the origins of C4 photosynthesis.
PMCID: PMC4046924  PMID: 24901697
18.  Targeted interactomics reveals a complex core cell cycle machinery in Arabidopsis thaliana 
A protein interactome focused towards cell proliferation was mapped comprising 857 interactions among 393 proteins, leading to many new insights in plant cell cycle regulation.A comprehensive view on heterodimeric cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK)/cyclin complexes in plants is obtained, in relation with their regulators.Over 100 new candidate cell cycle proteins were predicted.
The basic underlying mechanisms that govern the cell cycle are conserved among all eukaryotes. Peculiar for plants, however, is that their genome contains a collection of cell cycle regulatory genes that is intriguingly large (Vandepoele et al, 2002; Menges et al, 2005) compared to other eukaryotes. Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis) encodes 71 genes in five regulatory classes versus only 15 in yeast and 23 in human.
Despite the discovery of numerous cell cycle genes, little is known about the protein complex machinery that steers plant cell division. Therefore, we applied tandem affinity purification (TAP) approach coupled with mass spectrometry (MS) on Arabidopsis cell suspension cultures to isolate and analyze protein complexes involved in the cell cycle. This approach allowed us to successfully map a first draft of the basic cell cycle complex machinery of Arabidopsis, providing many new insights into plant cell division.
To map the interactome, we relied on a streamlined platform comprising generic Gateway-based vectors with high cloning flexibility, the fast generation of transgenic suspension cultures, TAP adapted for plant cells, and matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) tandem-MS for the identification of purified proteins (Van Leene et al, 2007, 2008Van Leene et al, 2007, 2008). Complexes for 102 cell cycle proteins were analyzed using this approach, leading to a non-redundant data set of 857 interactions among 393 proteins (Figure 1A). Two subspaces were identified in this data set, domain I1, containing interactions confirmed in at least two independent experimental repeats or in the reciprocal purification experiment, and domain I2 consisting of uniquely observed interactions.
Several observations underlined the quality of both domains. All tested reverse purifications found the original interaction, and 150 known or predicted interactions were confirmed, meaning that also a huge stack of new interactions was revealed. An in-depth computational analysis revealed enrichment for many cell cycle-related features among the proteins of the network (Figure 1B), and many protein pairs were coregulated at the transcriptional level (Figure 1C). Through integration of known cell cycle-related features, more than 100 new candidate cell cycle proteins were predicted (Figure 1D). Besides common qualities of both interactome domains, their real significance appeared through mutual differences exposing two subspaces in the cell cycle interactome: a central regulatory network of stable complexes that are repeatedly isolated and represent core regulatory units, and a peripheral network comprising transient interactions identified less frequently, which are involved in other aspects of the process, such as crosstalk between core complexes or connections with other pathways. To evaluate the biological relevance of the cell cycle interactome in plants, we validated interactions from both domains by a transient split-luciferase assay in Arabidopsis plants (Marion et al, 2008), further sustaining the hypothesis-generating power of the data set to understand plant growth.
With respect to insights into the cell cycle physiology, the interactome was subdivided according to the functional classes of the baits and core protein complexes were extracted, covering cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK)/cyclin core complexes together with their positive and negative regulation networks, DNA replication complexes, the anaphase-promoting complex, and spindle checkpoint complexes. The data imply that mitotic A- and B-type cyclins exclusively form heterodimeric complexes with the plant-specific B-type CDKs and not with CDKA;1, whereas D-type cyclins seem to associate with CDKA;1. Besides the extraction of complexes previously shown in other organisms, our data also suggested many new functional links; for example, the link coupling cell division with the regulation of transcript splicing. The association of negative regulators of CDK/cyclin complexes with transcription factors suggests that their role in reallocation is not solely targeted to CDK/cyclin complexes. New members of the Siamese-related inhibitory proteins were identified, and for the first time potential inhibitors of plant-specific mitotic B-type CDKs have been found in plants. New evidence that the E2F–DP–RBR network is not only active at G1-to-S, but also at the G2-to-M transition is provided and many complexes involved in DNA replication or repair were isolated. For the first time, a plant APC has been isolated biochemically, identifying three potential new plant-specific APC interactors, and finally, complexes involved in the spindle checkpoint were isolated mapping many new but specific interactions.
Finally, to get a general view on the complex machinery, modules of interacting cyclins and core cell cycle regulators were ranked along the cell cycle phases according to the transcript expression peak of the cyclins, showing an assorted set of CDK–cyclin complexes with high regulatory differentiation (Figure 4). Even within the same subfamily (e.g. cyclin A3, B1, B2, D3, and D4), cyclins differ not only in their functional time frame but also in the type and number of CDKs, inhibitors, and scaffolding proteins they bind, further indicating their functional diversification. According to our interaction data, at least 92 different variants of CDK–cyclin complexes are found in Arabidopsis.
In conclusion, these results reflect how several rounds of gene duplication (Sterck et al, 2007) led to the evolution of a large set of cyclin paralogs and a myriad of regulators, resulting in a significant jump in the complexity of the cell cycle machinery that could accommodate unique plant-specific features such as an indeterminate mode of postembryonic development. Through their extensive regulation and connection with a myriad of up- and downstream pathways, the core cell cycle complexes might offer the plant a flexible toolkit to fine-tune cell proliferation in response to an ever-changing environment.
Cell proliferation is the main driving force for plant growth. Although genome sequence analysis revealed a high number of cell cycle genes in plants, little is known about the molecular complexes steering cell division. In a targeted proteomics approach, we mapped the core complex machinery at the heart of the Arabidopsis thaliana cell cycle control. Besides a central regulatory network of core complexes, we distinguished a peripheral network that links the core machinery to up- and downstream pathways. Over 100 new candidate cell cycle proteins were predicted and an in-depth biological interpretation demonstrated the hypothesis-generating power of the interaction data. The data set provided a comprehensive view on heterodimeric cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK)–cyclin complexes in plants. For the first time, inhibitory proteins of plant-specific B-type CDKs were discovered and the anaphase-promoting complex was characterized and extended. Important conclusions were that mitotic A- and B-type cyclins form complexes with the plant-specific B-type CDKs and not with CDKA;1, and that D-type cyclins and S-phase-specific A-type cyclins seem to be associated exclusively with CDKA;1. Furthermore, we could show that plants have evolved a combinatorial toolkit consisting of at least 92 different CDK–cyclin complex variants, which strongly underscores the functional diversification among the large family of cyclins and reflects the pivotal role of cell cycle regulation in the developmental plasticity of plants.
PMCID: PMC2950081  PMID: 20706207
Arabidopsis thaliana; cell cycle; interactome; protein complex; protein interactions
19.  The Extraordinary Evolutionary History of the Reticuloendotheliosis Viruses 
PLoS Biology  2013;11(8):e1001642.
Reticuloendotheliosis viruses are mammalian retroviruses that were transmitted to avian hosts through inadvertent human intervention, and subsequently integrated their genetic material into the genomes of large DNA viruses, generating novel recombinant pathogens that now circulate naturally in poultry and wild birds.
The reticuloendotheliosis viruses (REVs) comprise several closely related amphotropic retroviruses isolated from birds. These viruses exhibit several highly unusual characteristics that have not so far been adequately explained, including their extremely close relationship to mammalian retroviruses, and their presence as endogenous sequences within the genomes of certain large DNA viruses. We present evidence for an iatrogenic origin of REVs that accounts for these phenomena. Firstly, we identify endogenous retroviral fossils in mammalian genomes that share a unique recombinant structure with REVs—unequivocally demonstrating that REVs derive directly from mammalian retroviruses. Secondly, through sequencing of archived REV isolates, we confirm that contaminated Plasmodium lophurae stocks have been the source of multiple REV outbreaks in experimentally infected birds. Finally, we show that both phylogenetic and historical evidence support a scenario wherein REVs originated as mammalian retroviruses that were accidentally introduced into avian hosts in the late 1930s, during experimental studies of P. lophurae, and subsequently integrated into the fowlpox virus (FWPV) and gallid herpesvirus type 2 (GHV-2) genomes, generating recombinant DNA viruses that now circulate in wild birds and poultry. Our findings provide a novel perspective on the origin and evolution of REV, and indicate that horizontal gene transfer between virus families can expand the impact of iatrogenic transmission events.
Author Summary
Retroviruses are characterized by their ability to insert a DNA copy of their genome into the chromosomes of infected cells. Occasionally, retroviruses insert into “germline” cells and are subsequently inherited as host alleles called endogenous retroviruses (ERVs). Vertebrate genomes contain thousands of ERV sequences derived from ancient retroviruses, and these viral sequences serve as molecular “fossils” that can be used to explore how retroviruses have evolved over millions of years. Here we combine an analysis of the retroviral “fossil record” with a phylogenetic and historical investigation to determine the origin of a group of avian retroviruses called reticuloendotheliosis viruses (REVs). We present evidence to demonstrate that rather than arising from natural infections of birds, REVs are in fact derived from mammalian retroviruses that were accidentally introduced into avian hosts during experimental studies of a malaria parasite in the late 1930s. Remarkably, REVs have subsequently inserted into the genomes of two large DNA viruses that infect birds, generating chimeric viruses that now circulate naturally in poultry and wild birds.
PMCID: PMC3754887  PMID: 24013706
20.  Widespread Horizontal Gene Transfer from Circular Single-stranded DNA Viruses to Eukaryotic Genomes 
In addition to vertical transmission, organisms can also acquire genes from other distantly related species or from their extra-chromosomal elements (plasmids and viruses) via horizontal gene transfer (HGT). It has been suggested that phages represent substantial forces in prokaryotic evolution. In eukaryotes, retroviruses, which can integrate into host genome as an obligate step in their replication strategy, comprise approximately 8% of the human genome. Unlike retroviruses, few members of other virus families are known to transfer genes to host genomes.
Here we performed a systematic search for sequences related to circular single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) viruses in publicly available eukaryotic genome databases followed by comprehensive phylogenetic analysis. We conclude that the replication initiation protein (Rep)-related sequences of geminiviruses, nanoviruses and circoviruses have been frequently transferred to a broad range of eukaryotic species, including plants, fungi, animals and protists. Some of the transferred viral genes were conserved and expressed, suggesting that these genes have been coopted to assume cellular functions in the host genomes. We also identified geminivirus-like and parvovirus-like transposable elements in genomes of fungi and lower animals, respectively, and thereby provide direct evidence that eukaryotic transposons could derive from ssDNA viruses.
Our discovery extends the host range of circular ssDNA viruses and sheds light on the origin and evolution of these viruses. It also suggests that ssDNA viruses act as an unforeseen source of genetic innovation in their hosts.
PMCID: PMC3198968  PMID: 21943216
21.  The Baculovirus Uses a Captured Host Phosphatase to Induce Enhanced Locomotory Activity in Host Caterpillars 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(4):e1002644.
The baculovirus is a classic example of a parasite that alters the behavior or physiology of its host so that progeny transmission is maximized. Baculoviruses do this by inducing enhanced locomotory activity (ELA) that causes the host caterpillars to climb to the upper foliage of plants. We previously reported that this behavior is not induced in silkworms that are infected with a mutant baculovirus lacking its protein tyrosine phosphatase (ptp) gene, a gene likely captured from an ancestral host. Here we show that the product of the ptp gene, PTP, associates with baculovirus ORF1629 as a virion structural protein, but surprisingly phosphatase activity associated with PTP was not required for the induction of ELA. Interestingly, the ptp knockout baculovirus showed significantly reduced infectivity of larval brain tissues. Collectively, we show that the modern baculovirus uses the host-derived phosphatase to establish adequate infection for ELA as a virion-associated structural protein rather than as an enzyme.
Author Summary
Pathogens are known to usurp or alter the behavior of their hosts for their own benefit. Such behavior modification by animal and even plant viruses is widely observed in insect hosts. One of the earliest documented examples of such behavior modification is Wipfelkrankheit, a baculovirus-induced disease that causes caterpillars to migrate to the upper foliage of food plants where they die. Two baculovirus genes, ptp and egt, are involved in the induction of enhanced locomotory activity (ELA) such as climbing behavior in baculovirus-infected caterpillars. Here we dissect the functional role that baculovirus protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTP), the protein encoded by ptp, plays in the induction of ELA. We surprisingly found that PTP functions as a virus-associated structural protein and not as an enzyme in regard to the induction of ELA. We show that PTP plays a crucial role in virus infection of brain tissues, and hypothesize that this infection results in pathogen control of insect behavior. Since ptp was likely captured from an ancestral host by horizontal gene transfer, our findings tell an amazing story of how the modern baculovirus uses a captured host gene in a completely different way from how it was likely used in the ancestral host.
PMCID: PMC3320614  PMID: 22496662
22.  Implication of the Bacterial Endosymbiont Rickettsia spp. in Interactions of the Whitefly Bemisia tabaci with Tomato yellow leaf curl virus 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(10):5652-5660.
Numerous animal and plant viruses are transmitted by arthropod vectors in a persistent, circulative manner. Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV) is transmitted by the sweet potato whitefly Bemisia tabaci. We report here that infection with Rickettsia spp., a facultative endosymbiont of whiteflies, altered TYLCV-B. tabaci interactions. A B. tabaci strain infected with Rickettsia acquired more TYLCV from infected plants, retained the virus longer, and exhibited nearly double the transmission efficiency compared to an uninfected B. tabaci strain with the same genetic background. Temporal and spatial antagonistic relationships were discovered between Rickettsia and TYLCV within the whitefly. In different time course experiments, the levels of virus and Rickettsia within the insect were inversely correlated. Fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis of Rickettsia-infected midguts provided evidence for niche exclusion between Rickettsia and TYLCV. In particular, high levels of the bacterium in the midgut resulted in higher virus concentrations in the filter chamber, a favored site for virus translocation along the transmission pathway, whereas low levels of Rickettsia in the midgut resulted in an even distribution of the virus. Taken together, these results indicate that Rickettsia, by infecting the midgut, increases TYLCV transmission efficacy, adding further insights into the complex association between persistent plant viruses, their insect vectors, and microorganism tenants that reside within these insects.
IMPORTANCE Interest in bacterial endosymbionts in arthropods and many aspects of their host biology in agricultural and human health systems has been increasing. A recent and relevant studied example is the influence of Wolbachia on dengue virus transmission by mosquitoes. In parallel with our recently studied whitefly-Rickettsia-TYLCV system, other studies have shown that dengue virus levels in the mosquito vector are inversely correlated with bacterial load. Our work here presents evidence of unifying principles between vectors of plant and animal viruses in a role for endosymbionts in manipulating vector biology and pathogen transmission. Our results demonstrate the influence of an interesting and prominent bacterial endosymbiont in Bemisia tabaci in TYLCV transmission, a worldwide disease infecting tomatoes. Besides its agricultural importance, this system provides interesting insights into Bemisia interaction with these newly discovered endosymbionts.
PMCID: PMC4019100  PMID: 24600010
23.  Towards defining the chloroviruses: a genomic journey through a genus of large DNA viruses 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:158.
Giant viruses in the genus Chlorovirus (family Phycodnaviridae) infect eukaryotic green microalgae. The prototype member of the genus, Paramecium bursaria chlorella virus 1, was sequenced more than 15 years ago, and to date there are only 6 fully sequenced chloroviruses in public databases. Presented here are the draft genome sequences of 35 additional chloroviruses (287 – 348 Kb/319 – 381 predicted protein encoding genes) collected across the globe; they infect one of three different green algal species. These new data allowed us to analyze the genomic landscape of 41 chloroviruses, which revealed some remarkable features about these viruses.
Genome colinearity, nucleotide conservation and phylogenetic affinity were limited to chloroviruses infecting the same host, confirming the validity of the three previously known subgenera. Clues for the existence of a fourth new subgenus indicate that the boundaries of chlorovirus diversity are not completely determined. Comparison of the chlorovirus phylogeny with that of the algal hosts indicates that chloroviruses have changed hosts in their evolutionary history. Reconstruction of the ancestral genome suggests that the last common chlorovirus ancestor had a slightly more diverse protein repertoire than modern chloroviruses. However, more than half of the defined chlorovirus gene families have a potential recent origin (after Chlorovirus divergence), among which a portion shows compositional evidence for horizontal gene transfer. Only a few of the putative acquired proteins had close homologs in databases raising the question of the true donor organism(s). Phylogenomic analysis identified only seven proteins whose genes were potentially exchanged between the algal host and the chloroviruses.
The present evaluation of the genomic evolution pattern suggests that chloroviruses differ from that described in the related Poxviridae and Mimiviridae. Our study shows that the fixation of algal host genes has been anecdotal in the evolutionary history of chloroviruses. We finally discuss the incongruence between compositional evidence of horizontal gene transfer and lack of close relative sequences in the databases, which suggests that the recently acquired genes originate from a still largely un-sequenced reservoir of genomes, possibly other unknown viruses that infect the same hosts.
PMCID: PMC3602175  PMID: 23497343
24.  Vertical Transmission Selects for Reduced Virulence in a Plant Virus and for Increased Resistance in the Host 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(7):e1004293.
For the last three decades, evolutionary biologists have sought to understand which factors modulate the evolution of parasite virulence. Although theory has identified several of these modulators, their effect has seldom been analysed experimentally. We investigated the role of two such major factors—the mode of transmission, and host adaptation in response to parasite evolution—in the evolution of virulence of the plant virus Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) in its natural host Arabidopsis thaliana. To do so, we serially passaged three CMV strains under strict vertical and strict horizontal transmission, alternating both modes of transmission. We quantified seed (vertical) transmission rate, virus accumulation, effect on plant growth and virulence of evolved and non-evolved viruses in the original plants and in plants derived after five passages of vertical transmission. Our results indicated that vertical passaging led to adaptation of the virus to greater vertical transmission, which was associated with reductions of virus accumulation and virulence. On the other hand, horizontal serial passages did not significantly modify virus accumulation and virulence. The observed increases in CMV seed transmission, and reductions in virus accumulation and virulence in vertically passaged viruses were due also to reciprocal host adaptation during vertical passages, which additionally reduced virulence and multiplication of vertically passaged viruses. This result is consistent with plant-virus co-evolution. Host adaptation to vertically passaged viruses was traded-off against reduced resistance to the non-evolved viruses. Thus, we provide evidence of the key role that the interplay between mode of transmission and host-parasite co-evolution has in determining the evolution of virulence.
Author Summary
Virulence is a key property of parasites, and is linked to the emergence of new diseases and to the reduction of ecosystem biodiversity. Consequently, scientists have devoted a great effort to build theoretical models that predict which factors may modulate virulence evolution. However, whether (and how) these factors affect virulence evolution has been seldom analysed experimentally. Using the plant virus Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) and its natural host Arabidopsis thaliana, we studied the role of two such factors: the mode of transmission, and host adaptation in response to parasite evolution. We serially passaged CMV under strict vertical and strict horizontal transmission, and a combination of both. Subsequently, we analysed differences in CMV seed (vertical) transmission rate, accumulation and virulence between evolved and non-evolved viruses. We also compared whether these differences varied in original plants and in plants evolved during vertical passaging. Vertical passaging increased CMV seed transmission, and reduced accumulation and virulence, while horizontal passaging had no effect. Changes during vertical passaging were determined also by reciprocal host adaptation, which additionally reduced virulence and accumulation of vertically transmitted viruses. Hence, we provide evidence that the interplay between the transmission mode and host-parasite co-evolution is central in determining virulence evolution.
PMCID: PMC4117603  PMID: 25077948
25.  Complete Genome Viral Phylogenies Suggests the Concerted Evolution of Regulatory Cores and Accessory Satellites 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(10):e3500.
We consider the concerted evolution of viral genomes in four families of DNA viruses. Given the high rate of horizontal gene transfer among viruses and their hosts, it is an open question as to how representative particular genes are of the evolutionary history of the complete genome. To address the concerted evolution of viral genes, we compared genomic evolution across four distinct, extant viral families. For all four viral families we constructed DNA-dependent DNA polymerase-based (DdDp) phylogenies and in addition, whole genome sequence, as quantitative descriptions of inter-genome relationships. We found that the history of the polymerase gene was highly predictive of the history of the genome as a whole, which we explain in terms of repeated, co-divergence events of the core DdDp gene accompanied by a number of satellite, accessory genetic loci. We also found that the rate of gene gain in baculovirus and poxviruses proceeds significantly more quickly than the rate of gene loss and that there is convergent acquisition of satellite functions promoting contextual adaptation when distinct viral families infect related hosts. The congruence of the genome and polymerase trees suggests that a large set of viral genes, including polymerase, derive from a phylogenetically conserved core of genes of host origin, secondarily reinforced by gene acquisition from common hosts or co-infecting viruses within the host. A single viral genome can be thought of as a mutualistic network, with the core genes acting as an effective host and the satellite genes as effective symbionts. Larger virus genomes show a greater departure from linkage equilibrium between core and satellites functions.
PMCID: PMC2567038  PMID: 18941535

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