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1.  Origin and evolution of the archaeo-eukaryotic primase superfamily and related palm-domain proteins: structural insights and new members 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(12):3875-3896.
We report an in-depth computational study of the protein sequences and structures of the superfamily of archaeo-eukaryotic primases (AEPs). This analysis greatly expands the range of diversity of the AEPs and reveals the unique active site shared by all members of this superfamily. In particular, it is shown that eukaryotic nucleo-cytoplasmic large DNA viruses, including poxviruses, asfarviruses, iridoviruses, phycodnaviruses and the mimivirus, encode AEPs of a distinct family, which also includes the herpesvirus primases whose relationship to AEPs has not been recognized previously. Many eukaryotic genomes, including chordates and plants, encode previously uncharacterized homologs of these predicted viral primases, which might be involved in novel DNA repair pathways. At a deeper level of evolutionary connections, structural comparisons indicate that AEPs, the nucleases involved in the initiation of rolling circle replication in plasmids and viruses, and origin-binding domains of papilloma and polyoma viruses evolved from a common ancestral protein that might have been involved in a protein-priming mechanism of initiation of DNA replication. Contextual analysis of multidomain protein architectures and gene neighborhoods in prokaryotes and viruses reveals remarkable parallels between AEPs and the unrelated DnaG-type primases, in particular, tight associations with the same repertoire of helicases. These observations point to a functional equivalence of the two classes of primases, which seem to have repeatedly displaced each other in various extrachromosomal replicons.
PMCID: PMC1176014  PMID: 16027112
2.  DNA Viruses: The Really Big Ones (Giruses) 
Viruses with genomes greater than 300 kb and up to 1200 kb are being discovered with increasing frequency. These large viruses (often called giruses) can encode up to 900 proteins and also many tRNAs. Consequently, these viruses have more protein-encoding genes than many bacteria, and the concept of small particle/small genome that once defined viruses is no longer valid. Giruses infect bacteria and animals although most of the recently discovered ones infect protists. Thus, genome gigantism is not restricted to a specific host or phylogenetic clade. To date, most of the giruses are associated with aqueous environments. Many of these large viruses (phycodnaviruses and Mimiviruses) probably have a common evolutionary ancestor with the poxviruses, iridoviruses, asfarviruses, ascoviruses, and a recently discovered Marseillevirus. One issue that is perhaps not appreciated by the microbiology community is that large viruses, even ones classified in the same family, can differ significantly in morphology, lifestyle, and genome structure. This review focuses on some of these differences rather than provides extensive details about individual viruses.
PMCID: PMC2936810  PMID: 20690825
algal virus; phycodnavirus; Mimivirus; White spot shrimp virus; jumbo phage; NCLDVs
3.  Symbiotic Virus at the Evolutionary Intersection of Three Types of Large DNA Viruses; Iridoviruses, Ascoviruses, and Ichnoviruses 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(7):e6397.
The ascovirus, DpAV4a (family Ascoviridae), is a symbiotic virus that markedly increases the fitness of its vector, the parasitic ichneumonid wasp, Diadromus puchellus, by increasing survival of wasp eggs and larvae in their lepidopteran host, Acrolepiopsis assectella. Previous phylogenetic studies have indicated that DpAV4a is related to the pathogenic ascoviruses, such as the Spodoptera frugiperda ascovirus 1a (SfAV1a) and the lepidopteran iridovirus (family Iridoviridae), Chilo iridescent virus (CIV), and is also likely related to the ancestral source of certain ichnoviruses (family Polydnaviridae).
Methodology/Principal Findings
To clarify the evolutionary relationships of these large double-stranded DNA viruses, we sequenced the genome of DpAV4a and undertook phylogenetic analyses of the above viruses and others, including iridoviruses pathogenic to vertebrates. The DpAV4a genome consisted of 119,343 bp and contained at least 119 open reading frames (ORFs), the analysis of which confirmed the relatedness of this virus to iridoviruses and other ascoviruses.
Analyses of core DpAV4a genes confirmed that ascoviruses and iridoviruses are evolutionary related. Nevertheless, our results suggested that the symbiotic DpAV4a had a separate origin in the iridoviruses from the pathogenic ascoviruses, and that these two types shared parallel evolutionary paths, which converged with respect to virion structure (icosahedral to bacilliform), genome configuration (linear to circular), and cytopathology (plasmalemma blebbing to virion-containing vesicles). Our analyses also revealed that DpAV4a shared more core genes with CIV than with other ascoviruses and iridoviruses, providing additional evidence that DpAV4a represents a separate lineage. Given the differences in the biology of the various iridoviruses and ascoviruses studied, these results provide an interesting model for how viruses of different families evolved from one another.
PMCID: PMC2712680  PMID: 19636425
4.  Evolution of DNA ligases of Nucleo-Cytoplasmic Large DNA viruses of eukaryotes: a case of hidden complexity 
Biology Direct  2009;4:51.
Eukaryotic Nucleo-Cytoplasmic Large DNA Viruses (NCLDV) encode most if not all of the enzymes involved in their DNA replication. It has been inferred that genes for these enzymes were already present in the last common ancestor of the NCLDV. However, the details of the evolution of these genes that bear on the complexity of the putative ancestral NCLDV and on the evolutionary relationships between viruses and their hosts are not well understood.
Phylogenetic analysis of the ATP-dependent and NAD-dependent DNA ligases encoded by the NCLDV reveals an unexpectedly complex evolutionary history. The NAD-dependent ligases are encoded only by a minority of NCLDV (including mimiviruses, some iridoviruses and entomopoxviruses) but phylogenetic analysis clearly indicated that all viral NAD-dependent ligases are monophyletic. Combined with the topology of the NCLDV tree derived by consensus of trees for universally conserved genes suggests that this enzyme was represented in the ancestral NCLDV. Phylogenetic analysis of ATP-dependent ligases that are encoded by chordopoxviruses, most of the phycodnaviruses and Marseillevirus failed to demonstrate monophyly and instead revealed an unexpectedly complex evolutionary trajectory. The ligases of the majority of phycodnaviruses and Marseillevirus seem to have evolved from bacteriophage or bacterial homologs; the ligase of one phycodnavirus, Emiliana huxlei virus, belongs to the eukaryotic DNA ligase I branch; and ligases of chordopoxviruses unequivocally cluster with eukaryotic DNA ligase III.
Examination of phyletic patterns and phylogenetic analysis of DNA ligases of the NCLDV suggest that the common ancestor of the extant NCLDV encoded an NAD-dependent ligase that most likely was acquired from a bacteriophage at the early stages of evolution of eukaryotes. By contrast, ATP-dependent ligases from different prokaryotic and eukaryotic sources displaced the ancestral NAD-dependent ligase at different stages of subsequent evolution. These findings emphasize complex routes of viral evolution that become apparent through detailed phylogenomic analysis but not necessarily in reconstructions based on phyletic patterns of genes.
This article was reviewed by: Patrick Forterre, George V. Shpakovski, and Igor B. Zhulin.
PMCID: PMC2806865  PMID: 20021668
5.  African Swine Fever Virus Is Wrapped by the Endoplasmic Reticulum 
Journal of Virology  1998;72(3):2373-2387.
African swine fever (ASF) virus is a large DNA virus that shares the striking icosahedral symmetry of iridoviruses and the genomic organization of poxviruses. Both groups of viruses have a complex envelope structure. In this study, the mechanism of formation of the inner envelope of ASF virus was investigated. Examination of thin cryosections by electron microscopy showed two internal membranes in mature intracellular virions and all structural intermediates. These membranes were in continuity with intracellular membrane compartments, suggesting that the virus gained two membranes from intracellular membrane cisternae. Immunogold electron microscopy showed the viral structural protein p17 and resident membrane proteins of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) within virus assembly sites, virus assembly intermediates, and mature virions. Resident ER proteins were also detected by Western blotting of isolated virions. The data suggested the ASF virus was wrapped by the ER. Analysis of the published sequence of ASF virus (R. J. Yanez et al., Virology 208:249–278, 1995) revealed a reading frame, XP124L, that encoded a protein predicted to translocate into the lumen of the ER. Pulse-chase immunoprecipitation and glycosylation analysis of pXP124L, the product of the XP124L gene, showed that pXP124L was retained in the ER lumen after synthesis. When analyzed by immunogold electron microscopy, pXP124L localized to virus assembly intermediates and fully assembled virions. Western blot analysis detected pXP124L in virions isolated from Percoll gradients. The packaging of pXP124L from the lumen of the ER into the virion is consistent with ASF virus being wrapped by ER cisternae: a mechanism which explains the presence of two membranes in the viral envelope.
PMCID: PMC109537  PMID: 9499098
6.  Mimiviridae: clusters of orthologous genes, reconstruction of gene repertoire evolution and proposed expansion of the giant virus family 
Virology Journal  2013;10:106.
The family Mimiviridae belongs to the large monophyletic group of Nucleo-Cytoplasmic Large DNA Viruses (NCLDV; proposed order Megavirales) and encompasses giant viruses infecting amoeba and probably other unicellular eukaryotes. The recent discovery of the Cafeteria roenbergensis virus (CroV), a distant relative of the prototype mimiviruses, led to a substantial expansion of the genetic variance within the family Mimiviridae. In the light of these findings, a reassessment of the relationships between the mimiviruses and other NCLDV and reconstruction of the evolution of giant virus genomes emerge as interesting and timely goals.
Database searches for the protein sequences encoded in the genomes of several viruses originally classified as members of the family Phycodnaviridae, in particular Organic Lake phycodnaviruses and Phaeocystis globosa viruses (OLPG), revealed a greater number of highly similar homologs in members of the Mimiviridae than in phycodnaviruses. We constructed a collection of 898 Clusters of Orthologous Genes for the putative expanded family Mimiviridae (MimiCOGs) and used these clusters for a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of the genes that are conserved in most of the NCLDV. The topologies of the phylogenetic trees for these conserved viral genes strongly support the monophyly of the OLPG and the mimiviruses. The same tree topology was obtained by analysis of the phyletic patterns of conserved viral genes. We further employed the mimiCOGs to obtain a maximum likelihood reconstruction of the history of genes losses and gains among the giant viruses. The results reveal massive gene gain in the mimivirus branch and modest gene gain in the OLPG branch.
These phylogenomic results reported here suggest a substantial expansion of the family Mimiviridae. The proposed expanded family encompasses a greater diversity of viruses including a group of viruses with much smaller genomes than those of the original members of the Mimiviridae. If the OLPG group is included in an expanded family Mimiviridae, it becomes the only family of giant viruses currently shown to host virophages. The mimiCOGs are expected to become a key resource for phylogenomics of giant viruses.
PMCID: PMC3620924  PMID: 23557328
7.  The Structure of a Putative Scaffolding Protein of Immature Poxvirus Particles as Determined by Electron Microscopy Suggests Similarity with Capsid Proteins of Large Icosahedral DNA Viruses▿  
Journal of Virology  2007;81(20):11075-11083.
Orf virus, the prototype parapoxvirus, is responsible for contagious ecthyma in sheep and goats. The central region of the viral genome codes for proteins highly conserved among vertebrate poxviruses and which are frequently essential for viral proliferation. Analysis of the recently published genome sequence of orf virus revealed that among such essential proteins, the protein orfv075 is an orthologue of D13, the rifampin resistance gene product critical for vaccinia virus morphogenesis. Previous studies showed that D13, arranged as “spicules,” is necessary for the formation of vaccinia virus immature virions, a mandatory intermediate in viral maturation. We have determined the three-dimensional structure of recombinant orfv075 at ∼25-Å resolution by electron microscopy of two-dimensional crystals. orfv075 organizes as trimers with a tripod-like main body and a propeller-like smaller domain. The molecular envelope of orfv075 shows unexpectedly good agreement to that of a distant homologue, VP54, the major capsid protein of Paramecium bursaria Chlorella virus type 1. Our structural analysis suggests that orfv075 belongs in the double-barreled capsid protein family found in many double-stranded DNA icosahedral viruses and supports the hypothesis that the nonicosahedral poxviruses and the large icosahedral DNA viruses are evolutionarily related.
PMCID: PMC2045580  PMID: 17670837
8.  The Membrane Fusion Step of Vaccinia Virus Entry Is Cooperatively Mediated by Multiple Viral Proteins and Host Cell Components 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(12):e1002446.
For many viruses, one or two proteins allow cell attachment and entry, which occurs through the plasma membrane or following endocytosis at low pH. In contrast, vaccinia virus (VACV) enters cells by both neutral and low pH routes; four proteins mediate cell attachment and twelve that are associated in a membrane complex and conserved in all poxviruses are dedicated to entry. The aim of the present study was to determine the roles of cellular and viral proteins in initial stages of entry, specifically fusion of the membranes of the mature virion and cell. For analysis of the role of cellular components, we used well characterized inhibitors and measured binding of a recombinant VACV virion containing Gaussia luciferase fused to a core protein; viral and cellular membrane lipid mixing with a self-quenching fluorescent probe in the virion membrane; and core entry with a recombinant VACV expressing firefly luciferase and electron microscopy. We determined that inhibitors of tyrosine protein kinases, dynamin GTPase and actin dynamics had little effect on binding of virions to cells but impaired membrane fusion, whereas partial cholesterol depletion and inhibitors of endosomal acidification and membrane blebbing had a severe effect at the later stage of core entry. To determine the role of viral proteins, virions lacking individual membrane components were purified from cells infected with members of a panel of ten conditional-lethal inducible mutants. Each of the entry protein-deficient virions had severely reduced infectivity and except for A28, L1 and L5 greatly impaired membrane fusion. In addition, a potent neutralizing L1 monoclonal antibody blocked entry at a post-membrane lipid-mixing step. Taken together, these results suggested a 2-step entry model and implicated an unprecedented number of viral proteins and cellular components involved in signaling and actin rearrangement for initiation of virus-cell membrane fusion during poxvirus entry.
Author Summary
Poxviruses are large DNA viruses that cause diseases in humans and other animals. To initiate infection, the core of the large, membrane-enveloped particle must penetrate into the cytoplasm where replication occurs. For most enveloped viruses only one or two proteins are needed for attachment and penetration. However, at least sixteen poxvirus proteins are dedicated to entry: four for attachment and twelve for penetration. The latter proteins form the entry fusion complex (EFC) and are conserved in all poxviruses indicating that the entry mechanism has been retained since the origin of the family. The purpose of the present study was to determine the cellular processes and poxviral proteins needed for fusion of the viral and cellular membranes. We found that a variety of inhibitors that interfered with cell signaling and reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton prevented membrane fusion as determined by lipid mixing, whereas others targeted the subsequent stage in entry. In addition, seven viral protein components of the EFC were required for the initial membrane fusion step, whereas three were not. A neutralizing monoclonal antibody to one of the latter also did not interfere with membrane lipid mixing but still prevented core entry supporting a 2-step poxvirus entry model.
PMCID: PMC3240603  PMID: 22194690
9.  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
10.  The Envelope of Intracellular African Swine Fever Virus Is Composed of a Single Lipid Bilayer▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(16):7905-7912.
African swine fever virus (ASFV) is a member of a family of large nucleocytoplasmic DNA viruses that include poxviruses, iridoviruses, and phycodnaviruses. Previous ultrastructural studies of ASFV using chemical fixation and cryosectioning for electron microscopy (EM) have produced uncertainty over whether the inner viral envelope is composed of a single or double lipid bilayer. In this study we prepared ASFV-infected cells for EM using chemical fixation, cryosectioning, and high-pressure freezing. The appearance of the intracellular viral envelope was determined and compared to that of mitochondrial membranes in each sample. The best resolution of membrane structure was obtained with samples prepared by high-pressure freezing, and images suggested that the envelope of ASFV consisted of a single lipid membrane. It was less easy to interpret virus structure in chemically fixed or cryosectioned material, and in the latter case the virus envelope could be interpreted as having two membranes. Comparison of membrane widths in all three preparations indicated that the intracellular viral envelope of ASFV was not significantly different from the outer mitochondrial membrane (P < 0.05). The results support the hypothesis that the intracellular ASFV viral envelope is composed of a single lipid bilayer.
PMCID: PMC2519565  PMID: 18550658
11.  The Genome of Melanoplus sanguinipes Entomopoxvirus 
Journal of Virology  1999;73(1):533-552.
The family Poxviridae contains two subfamilies: the Entomopoxvirinae (poxviruses of insects) and the Chordopoxvirinae (poxviruses of vertebrates). Here we present the first characterization of the genome of an entomopoxvirus (EPV) which infects the North American migratory grasshopper Melanoplus sanguinipes and other important orthopteran pests. The 236-kbp M. sanguinipes EPV (MsEPV) genome consists of a central coding region bounded by 7-kbp inverted terminal repeats and contains 267 open reading frames (ORFs), of which 107 exhibit similarity to previously described genes. The presence of genes not previously described in poxviruses, and in some cases in any other known virus, suggests significant viral adaptation to the arthropod host and the external environment. Genes predicting interactions with host cellular mechanisms include homologues of the inhibitor of apoptosis protein, stress response protein phosphatase 2C, extracellular matrixin metalloproteases, ubiquitin, calcium binding EF-hand protein, glycosyltransferase, and a triacylglyceride lipase. MsEPV genes with putative functions in prevention and repair of DNA damage include a complete base excision repair pathway (uracil DNA glycosylase, AP endonuclease, DNA polymerase β, and an NAD+-dependent DNA ligase), a photoreactivation repair pathway (cyclobutane pyrimidine dimer photolyase), a LINE-type reverse transcriptase, and a mutT homologue. The presence of these specific repair pathways may represent viral adaptation for repair of environmentally induced DNA damage. The absence of previously described poxvirus enzymes involved in nucleotide metabolism and the presence of a novel thymidylate synthase homologue suggest that MsEPV is heavily reliant on host cell nucleotide pools and the de novo nucleotide biosynthesis pathway. MsEPV and lepidopteran genus B EPVs lack genome colinearity and exhibit a low level of amino acid identity among homologous genes (20 to 59%), perhaps reflecting a significant evolutionary distance between lepidopteran and orthopteran viruses. Divergence between MsEPV and the Chordopoxvirinae is indicated by the presence of only 49 identifiable chordopoxvirus homologues, low-level amino acid identity among these genes (20 to 48%), and the presence in MsEPV of 43 novel ORFs in five gene families. Genes common to both poxvirus subfamilies, which include those encoding enzymes involved in RNA transcription and modification, DNA replication, protein processing, virion assembly, and virion structural proteins, define the genetic core of the Poxviridae.
PMCID: PMC103860  PMID: 9847359
12.  A Structural Model of the Genome Packaging Process in a Membrane-Containing Double Stranded DNA Virus 
PLoS Biology  2014;12(12):e1002024.
Modeling how PRD1, a dsDNA membrane-containing virus, packages its genome using electron cryo-microscopy.
Two crucial steps in the virus life cycle are genome encapsidation to form an infective virion and genome exit to infect the next host cell. In most icosahedral double-stranded (ds) DNA viruses, the viral genome enters and exits the capsid through a unique vertex. Internal membrane-containing viruses possess additional complexity as the genome must be translocated through the viral membrane bilayer. Here, we report the structure of the genome packaging complex with a membrane conduit essential for viral genome encapsidation in the tailless icosahedral membrane-containing bacteriophage PRD1. We utilize single particle electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) and symmetry-free image reconstruction to determine structures of PRD1 virion, procapsid, and packaging deficient mutant particles. At the unique vertex of PRD1, the packaging complex replaces the regular 5-fold structure and crosses the lipid bilayer. These structures reveal that the packaging ATPase P9 and the packaging efficiency factor P6 form a dodecameric portal complex external to the membrane moiety, surrounded by ten major capsid protein P3 trimers. The viral transmembrane density at the special vertex is assigned to be a hexamer of heterodimer of proteins P20 and P22. The hexamer functions as a membrane conduit for the DNA and as a nucleating site for the unique vertex assembly. Our structures show a conformational alteration in the lipid membrane after the P9 and P6 are recruited to the virion. The P8-genome complex is then packaged into the procapsid through the unique vertex while the genome terminal protein P8 functions as a valve that closes the channel once the genome is inside. Comparing mature virion, procapsid, and mutant particle structures led us to propose an assembly pathway for the genome packaging apparatus in the PRD1 virion.
Author Summary
The life cycle of a virus involves serial coordination of viral molecular machines. These machines facilitate functions such as membrane fusion and genome delivery during infection, and capsid formation and genome packaging during replication and shedding. Icosahedral dsDNA viruses use one genome-translocation machine for both genome delivery and packaging. The genome-translocation machine of the membrane-containing bacterial virus PRD1 is composed of four packaging protein species at a unique vertex. Because these proteins do not follow the dominating icosahedral symmetry of the viral capsid, the structure of this vertex has remained elusive. In this study, we localize the unique vertex in the virus from raw electron cryo-microscopy images of the virus. We show that the genome-packaging complex of PRD1 replaces the regular 5-fold structure at the unique vertex and contains a transmembrane conduit as a genome translocation channel. We extend our structural studies to the procapsid—a precursor of the virus—and three packaging mutant particles, allowing us to localize all individual protein species in the complex. Based on these structures, we propose a model of the molecular mechanism of assembly and packaging in the life cycle of the PRD1 virus.
PMCID: PMC4267777  PMID: 25514469
13.  A novel immunity system for bacterial nucleic acid degrading toxins and its recruitment in various eukaryotic and DNA viral systems 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(11):4532-4552.
The use of nucleases as toxins for defense, offense or addiction of selfish elements is widely encountered across all life forms. Using sensitive sequence profile analysis methods, we characterize a novel superfamily (the SUKH superfamily) that unites a diverse group of proteins including Smi1/Knr4, PGs2, FBXO3, SKIP16, Syd, herpesviral US22, IRS1 and TRS1, and their bacterial homologs. Using contextual analysis we present evidence that the bacterial members of this superfamily are potential immunity proteins for a variety of toxin systems that also include the recently characterized contact-dependent inhibition (CDI) systems of proteobacteria. By analyzing the toxin proteins encoded in the neighborhood of the SUKH superfamily we predict that they possess domains belonging to diverse nuclease and nucleic acid deaminase families. These include at least eight distinct types of DNases belonging to HNH/EndoVII- and restriction endonuclease-fold, and RNases of the EndoU-like and colicin E3-like cytotoxic RNases-folds. The N-terminal domains of these toxins indicate that they are extruded by several distinct secretory mechanisms such as the two-partner system (shared with the CDI systems) in proteobacteria, ESAT-6/WXG-like ATP-dependent secretory systems in Gram-positive bacteria and the conventional Sec-dependent system in several bacterial lineages. The hedgehog-intein domain might also release a subset of toxic nuclease domains through auto-proteolytic action. Unlike classical colicin-like nuclease toxins, the overwhelming majority of toxin systems with the SUKH superfamily is chromosomally encoded and appears to have diversified through a recombination process combining different C-terminal nuclease domains to N-terminal secretion-related domains. Across the bacterial superkingdom these systems might participate in discriminating `self’ or kin from `non-self’ or non-kin strains. Using structural analysis we demonstrate that the SUKH domain possesses a versatile scaffold that can be used to bind a wide range of protein partners. In eukaryotes it appears to have been recruited as an adaptor to regulate modification of proteins by ubiquitination or polyglutamylation. Similarly, another widespread immunity protein from these toxin systems, namely the suppressor of fused (SuFu) superfamily has been recruited for comparable roles in eukaryotes. In animal DNA viruses, such as herpesviruses, poxviruses, iridoviruses and adenoviruses, the ability of the SUKH domain to bind diverse targets has been deployed to counter diverse anti-viral responses by interacting with specific host proteins.
PMCID: PMC3113570  PMID: 21306995
14.  Membrane Remodeling by the Double-Barrel Scaffolding Protein of Poxvirus 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(9):e1002239.
In contrast to most enveloped viruses, poxviruses produce infectious particles that do not acquire their internal lipid membrane by budding through cellular compartments. Instead, poxvirus immature particles are generated from atypical crescent-shaped precursors whose architecture and composition remain contentious. Here we describe the 2.6 Å crystal structure of vaccinia virus D13, a key structural component of the outer scaffold of viral crescents. D13 folds into two jellyrolls decorated by a head domain of novel fold. It assembles into trimers that are homologous to the double-barrel capsid proteins of adenovirus and lipid-containing icosahedral viruses. We show that, when tethered onto artificial membranes, D13 forms a honeycomb lattice and assembly products structurally similar to the viral crescents and immature particles. The architecture of the D13 honeycomb lattice and the lipid-remodeling abilities of D13 support a model of assembly that exhibits similarities with the giant mimivirus. Overall, these findings establish that the first committed step of poxvirus morphogenesis utilizes an ancestral lipid-remodeling strategy common to icosahedral DNA viruses infecting all kingdoms of life. Furthermore, D13 is the target of rifampicin and its structure will aid the development of poxvirus assembly inhibitors.
Author Summary
Poxviruses are arguably the largest viruses infecting humans. The unique brick-shape architecture of their infectious virus particles sets them apart from any other viral family in the virosphere. The infectious particles are produced through a series of assembly steps where intermediates of distinct composition and architecture can be identified. In particular, atypical crescent-shaped precursors of immature particles have generated much controversy regarding their structure and the origin of their lipidic membrane. Here, we used a combination of X-ray crystallography and electron microscopy to investigate the role of a crucial structural component of viral crescents called D13. Our atomic structure of D13 firmly establishes an evolutionary link between poxviruses and a group of large DNA viruses. In addition, we show that, when tethered to artificial membranes, this protein assembles into a scaffold analogous to that in immature particles. The resulting pseudo-atomic model of the honeycomb lattice reveals similarities to the mimivirus, which suggests that giant viral shells use common assembly principles. Overall, our findings reveal that poxviruses utilize an ancestral lipid-remodeling strategy common to DNA viruses infecting all kingdoms of life. They also provide a basis for structure-based design of assembly inhibitors against poxvirus pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3169552  PMID: 21931553
15.  Comparative genomic analysis of the family Iridoviridae: re-annotating and defining the core set of iridovirus genes 
Virology Journal  2007;4:11.
Members of the family Iridoviridae can cause severe diseases resulting in significant economic and environmental losses. Very little is known about how iridoviruses cause disease in their host. In the present study, we describe the re-analysis of the Iridoviridae family of complex DNA viruses using a variety of comparative genomic tools to yield a greater consensus among the annotated sequences of its members.
A series of genomic sequence comparisons were made among, and between the Ranavirus and Megalocytivirus genera in order to identify novel conserved ORFs. Of these two genera, the Megalocytivirus genomes required the greatest number of altered annotations. Prior to our re-analysis, the Megalocytivirus species orange-spotted grouper iridovirus and rock bream iridovirus shared 99% sequence identity, but only 82 out of 118 potential ORFs were annotated; in contrast, we predict that these species share an identical complement of genes. These annotation changes allowed the redefinition of the group of core genes shared by all iridoviruses. Seven new core genes were identified, bringing the total number to 26.
Our re-analysis of genomes within the Iridoviridae family provides a unifying framework to understand the biology of these viruses. Further re-defining the core set of iridovirus genes will continue to lead us to a better understanding of the phylogenetic relationships between individual iridoviruses as well as giving us a much deeper understanding of iridovirus replication. In addition, this analysis will provide a better framework for characterizing and annotating currently unclassified iridoviruses.
PMCID: PMC1783846  PMID: 17239238
16.  Insights into the Evolution of a Complex Virus from the Crystal Structure of Vaccinia Virus D13 
Structure(London, England:1993)  2011;19(7-12):1011-1020.
The morphogenesis of poxviruses such as vaccinia virus (VACV) sees the virion shape mature from spherical to brick-shaped. Trimeric capsomers of the VACV D13 protein form a transitory, stabilizing lattice on the surface of the initial spherical immature virus particle. The crystal structure of D13 reveals that this major scaffolding protein comprises a double β barrel “jelly-roll” subunit arranged as pseudo-hexagonal trimers. These structural features are characteristic of the major capsid proteins of a lineage of large icosahedral double-stranded DNA viruses including human adenovirus and the bacteriophages PRD1 and PM2. Structure-based phylogenetic analysis confirms that VACV belongs to this lineage, suggesting that (analogously to higher organism embryogenesis) early poxvirus morphogenesis reflects their evolution from a lineage of viruses sharing a common icosahedral ancestor.
► Poxvirus D13 acts as a scaffold for the morphogenesis of spherical immature virions ► D13 has a double “jelly-roll” structure, like other large DNA virus capsid proteins ► Structure-based phylogenetics places D13 into an icosahedral viral lineage ► Poxvirus morphogenesis reflects Vaccinia virus evolution from an icosahedral ancestor
PMCID: PMC3136756  PMID: 21742267
17.  Geminiviruses: a tale of a plasmid becoming a virus 
Geminiviruses (family Geminiviridae) are small single-stranded (ss) DNA viruses infecting plants. Their virion morphology is unique in the known viral world – two incomplete T = 1 icosahedra are joined together to form twinned particles. Geminiviruses utilize a rolling-circle mode to replicate their genomes. A limited sequence similarity between the three conserved motifs of the rolling-circle replication initiation proteins (RCR Reps) of geminiviruses and plasmids of Gram-positive bacteria allowed Koonin and Ilyina to propose that geminiviruses descend from bacterial replicons.
Phylogenetic and clustering analyses of various RCR Reps suggest that Rep proteins of geminiviruses share a most recent common ancestor with Reps encoded on plasmids of phytoplasmas, parasitic wall-less bacteria replicating both in plant and insect cells and therefore occupying a common ecological niche with geminiviruses. Capsid protein of Satellite tobacco necrosis virus was found to be the best template for homology-based structural modeling of the geminiviral capsid protein. Good stereochemical quality of the generated models indicates that the geminiviral capsid protein shares the same structural fold, the viral jelly-roll, with the vast majority of icosahedral plant-infecting ssRNA viruses.
We propose a plasmid-to-virus transition scenario, where a phytoplasmal plasmid acquired a capsid-coding gene from a plant RNA virus to give rise to the ancestor of geminiviruses.
PMCID: PMC2702318  PMID: 19460138
18.  The Genomic Diversity and Phylogenetic Relationship in the Family Iridoviridae 
Viruses  2010;2(7):1458-1475.
The Iridoviridae family are large viruses (∼120–200 nm) that contain a linear double-stranded DNA genome. The genomic size of Iridoviridae family members range from 105,903 bases encoding 97 open reading frames (ORFs) for frog virus 3 to 212,482 bases encoding 211 ORFs for Chilo iridescent virus. The family Iridoviridae is currently subdivided into five genera: Chloriridovirus, Iridovirus, Lymphocystivirus, Megalocytivirus, and Ranavirus. Iridoviruses have been found to infect invertebrates and poikilothermic vertebrates, including amphibians, reptiles, and fish. With such a diverse array of hosts, there is great diversity in gene content between different genera. To understand the origin of iridoviruses, we explored the phylogenetic relationship between individual iridoviruses and defined the core-set of genes shared by all members of the family. In order to further explore the evolutionary relationship between the Iridoviridae family repetitive sequences were identified and compared. Each genome was found to contain a set of unique repetitive sequences that could be used in future virus identification. Repeats common to more than one virus were also identified and changes in copy number between these repeats may provide a simple method to differentiate between very closely related virus strains. The results of this paper will be useful in identifying new iridoviruses and determining their relationship to other members of the family.
PMCID: PMC3185713  PMID: 21994690
Iridoviridae; evolution; repetitive sequences
19.  Phycodnavirus Potassium Ion Channel Proteins Question the Virus Molecular Piracy Hypothesis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38826.
Phycodnaviruses are large dsDNA, algal-infecting viruses that encode many genes with homologs in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Among the viral gene products are the smallest proteins known to form functional K+ channels. To determine if these viral K+ channels are the product of molecular piracy from their hosts, we compared the sequences of the K+ channel pore modules from seven phycodnaviruses to the K+ channels from Chlorella variabilis and Ectocarpus siliculosus, whose genomes have recently been sequenced. C. variabilis is the host for two of the viruses PBCV-1 and NY-2A and E. siliculosus is the host for the virus EsV-1. Systematic phylogenetic analyses consistently indicate that the viral K+ channels are not related to any lineage of the host channel homologs and that they are more closely related to each other than to their host homologs. A consensus sequence of the viral channels resembles a protein of unknown function from a proteobacterium. However, the bacterial protein lacks the consensus motif of all K+ channels and it does not form a functional channel in yeast, suggesting that the viral channels did not come from a proteobacterium. Collectively, our results indicate that the viruses did not acquire their K+ channel-encoding genes from their current algal hosts by gene transfer; thus alternative explanations are required. One possibility is that the viral genes arose from ancient organisms, which served as their hosts before the viruses developed their current host specificity. Alternatively the viral proteins could be the origin of K+ channels in algae and perhaps even all cellular organisms.
PMCID: PMC3369850  PMID: 22685610
20.  The Autographa californica M Nucleopolyhedrovirus ac79 Gene Encodes an Early Gene Product with Structural Similarities to UvrC and Intron-Encoded Endonucleases That Is Required for Efficient Budded Virus Production 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(10):5614-5625.
The Autographa californica M nucleopolyhedrovirus (AcMNPV) orf79 (ac79) gene is a conserved gene in baculoviruses and shares homology with genes in ascoviruses, iridoviruses, and several bacteria. Ac79 has a conserved motif and structural similarities to UvrC and intron-encoded endonucleases. Ac79 is produced at early times during infection and concentrates in the nucleus of infected cells at late times, suggesting a cellular compartment-specific function. To investigate its function, an ac79-knockout bacmid was generated through homologous recombination in Escherichia coli. Titration assays showed that budded virus (BV) production was reduced in the ac79-knockout virus compared to control viruses, following either virus infection or the transfection of bacmid DNA. The ac79-knockout virus-infected cells produced plaques smaller than those infected with control ac79-carrying viruses. No obvious differences were observed in viral DNA synthesis, viral protein accumulation, or the formation of occlusion bodies in ac79-knockout and control viral DNA-transfected cells, indicating progression into the late and very late phases of viral infection. However, comparative analyses of the amounts of BV genomic DNA and structural proteins in a given quantity of infectious virions suggested that the ac79-knockout virus produced more noninfectious BV in infected cells than the control virus. The structure of the ac79-knockout BV determined by transmission electron microscopy appeared to be similar to that of the control virus, although aberrant capsid protein-containing tubular structures were observed in the nuclei of ac79-knockout virus-infected cells. Tubular structures were not observed for ac79 viruses with mutations in conserved endonuclease residues. These results indicate that Ac79 is required for efficient BV production.
PMCID: PMC3347285  PMID: 22419804
21.  Base-By-Base version 2: single nucleotide-level analysis of whole viral genome alignments 
Base-By-Base is a Java-based multiple sequence alignment editor. It is capable of working with protein and DNA molecules, but many of its unique features relate to the manipulation of the genomes of large DNA viruses such as poxviruses, herpesviruses, baculoviruses and asfarviruses (1-400 kb). The tool was built to serve as a platform for comparative genomics at the level of individual nucleotides.
In version 2, BBB-v2, of Base-By-Base we have added a series of new features aimed at providing the bench virologist with a better platform to view, annotate and analyze these complex genomes. Although a poxvirus genome, for example, may be less than 200 kb, it probably encodes close to 200 proteins using multiple classes of promoters with frequent overlapping of promoters and coding sequences and even some overlapping of genes. The new features allow users to 1) add primer annotations or other data sets in batch mode, 2) export differences between sequences to other genome browsers, 3) compare multiple genomes at a single nucleotide level of detail, 4) create new alignments from subsets/subsequences of a very large master alignment and 5) allow display of summaries of deep RNA sequencing data sets on a genome sequence.
BBB-v2 significantly improves the ability of virologists to work with genome sequences and provides a platform with which they can use a multiple sequence alignment as the basis for their own editable documents. Also, a .bbb document, with a variety of annotations in addition to the basic coding regions, can be shared among collaborators or made available to an entire research community. The program is available via using Java Web Start and is platform independent; the Java 1.5 virtual machine is required.
PMCID: PMC3348662  PMID: 22587754
22.  Transcriptional Activation of the Adenoviral Genome Is Mediated by Capsid Protein VI 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(2):e1002549.
Gene expression of DNA viruses requires nuclear import of the viral genome. Human Adenoviruses (Ads), like most DNA viruses, encode factors within early transcription units promoting their own gene expression and counteracting cellular antiviral defense mechanisms. The cellular transcriptional repressor Daxx prevents viral gene expression through the assembly of repressive chromatin remodeling complexes targeting incoming viral genomes. However, it has remained unclear how initial transcriptional activation of the adenoviral genome is achieved. Here we show that Daxx mediated repression of the immediate early Ad E1A promoter is efficiently counteracted by the capsid protein VI. This requires a conserved PPxY motif in protein VI. Capsid proteins from other DNA viruses were also shown to activate the Ad E1A promoter independent of Ad gene expression and support virus replication. Our results show how Ad entry is connected to transcriptional activation of their genome in the nucleus. Our data further suggest a common principle for genome activation of DNA viruses by counteracting Daxx related repressive mechanisms through virion proteins.
Author Summary
To initiate infection, DNA viruses deliver their genome to the nucleus and express viral genes required for genome replication. Efficient transport is achieved by packing the viral genome as a condensed, transcriptionally inactive nucleo-protein complex. However, for most DNA viruses, including Adenoviruses (Ads), it remains unclear how the viral genome is decondensed and how transcription is initiated inside the nucleus. Cells control unwanted gene expression by chromatin modification mediated through transcriptionally repressive complexes. A key factor in repressive complex assemblies is the transcriptional repressor Daxx. The Ad structural capsid protein VI is required for endosomal escape and nuclear transport. Here we show that protein VI also activates the Ad E1A promoter to initiate Ad gene expression. This is achieved through the removal of Daxx repression from the E1A promoter, which requires a conserved ubiquitin ligase interacting motif (PPxY-motif) in protein VI. We further show that capsid proteins from other unrelated DNA viruses also activate the Ad E1A promoter and support Ad replication by counteracting Daxx repression, functionally replacing protein VI. Our data suggest that reversal of Daxx repression by virion proteins is a widespread mechanism among DNA viruses that is not restricted to a single virus family.
PMCID: PMC3303589  PMID: 22427750
23.  Phylogenetic evidence for extensive lateral acquisition of cellular genes by Nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses 
Nucleo-Cytoplasmic Large DNA viruses (NCLDV), a diverse group that infects a wide range of eukaryotic hosts, exhibit a large heterogeneity in genome size (between 100 kb and 1.2 Mb) but have been suggested to form a monophyletic group on the basis of a small subset of approximately 30 conserved genes. NCLDV were proposed to have evolved by simplification from cellular organism although some of the giant NCLDV have clearly grown by gene accretion from a bacterial origin.
We demonstrate here that many NCLDV lineages appear to have undergone frequent gene exchange in two different ways. Viruses which infect protists directly (Mimivirus) or algae which exist as intracellular protists symbionts (Phycodnaviruses) acquire genes from a bacterial source. Metazoan viruses such as the Poxviruses show a predominant acquisition of host genes. In both cases, the laterally acquired genes show a strong tendency to be positioned at the tip of the genome. Surprisingly, several core genes believed to be ancestral in the family appear to have undergone lateral gene transfers, suggesting that the NCLDV ancestor might have had a smaller genome than previously believed. Moreover, our data show that the larger the genome, the higher is the number of laterally acquired genes. This pattern is incompatible with a genome reduction from a cellular ancestor.
We propose that the NCLDV viruses have evolved by significant growth of a simple DNA virus by gene acquisition from cellular sources.
PMCID: PMC2607284  PMID: 19036122
24.  Complete sequence determination of a novel reptile iridovirus isolated from soft-shelled turtle and evolutionary analysis of Iridoviridae 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:224.
Soft-shelled turtle iridovirus (STIV) is the causative agent of severe systemic diseases in cultured soft-shelled turtles (Trionyx sinensis). To our knowledge, the only molecular information available on STIV mainly concerns the highly conserved STIV major capsid protein. The complete sequence of the STIV genome is not yet available. Therefore, determining the genome sequence of STIV and providing a detailed bioinformatic analysis of its genome content and evolution status will facilitate further understanding of the taxonomic elements of STIV and the molecular mechanisms of reptile iridovirus pathogenesis.
We determined the complete nucleotide sequence of the STIV genome using 454 Life Science sequencing technology. The STIV genome is 105 890 bp in length with a base composition of 55.1% G+C. Computer assisted analysis revealed that the STIV genome contains 105 potential open reading frames (ORFs), which encode polypeptides ranging from 40 to 1,294 amino acids and 20 microRNA candidates. Among the putative proteins, 20 share homology with the ancestral proteins of the nuclear and cytoplasmic large DNA viruses (NCLDVs). Comparative genomic analysis showed that STIV has the highest degree of sequence conservation and a colinear arrangement of genes with frog virus 3 (FV3), followed by Tiger frog virus (TFV), Ambystoma tigrinum virus (ATV), Singapore grouper iridovirus (SGIV), Grouper iridovirus (GIV) and other iridovirus isolates. Phylogenetic analysis based on conserved core genes and complete genome sequence of STIV with other virus genomes was performed. Moreover, analysis of the gene gain-and-loss events in the family Iridoviridae suggested that the genes encoded by iridoviruses have evolved for favoring adaptation to different natural host species.
This study has provided the complete genome sequence of STIV. Phylogenetic analysis suggested that STIV and FV3 are strains of the same viral species belonging to the Ranavirus genus in the Iridoviridae family. Given virus-host co-evolution and the phylogenetic relationship among vertebrates from fish to reptiles, we propose that iridovirus might transmit between reptiles and amphibians and that STIV and FV3 are strains of the same viral species in the Ranavirus genus.
PMCID: PMC2689277  PMID: 19439104
25.  Unique nucleocytoplasmic dsDNA and +ssRNA viruses are associated with the dinoflagellate endosymbionts of corals 
The ISME Journal  2012;7(1):13-27.
The residence of dinoflagellate algae (genus: Symbiodinium) within scleractinian corals is critical to the construction and persistence of tropical reefs. In recent decades, however, acute and chronic environmental stressors have frequently destabilized this symbiosis, ultimately leading to coral mortality and reef decline. Viral infection has been suggested as a trigger of coral–Symbiodinium dissociation; knowledge of the diversity and hosts of coral-associated viruses is critical to evaluating this hypothesis. Here, we present the first genomic evidence of viruses associated with Symbiodinium, based on the presence of transcribed +ss (single-stranded) RNA and ds (double-stranded) DNA virus-like genes in complementary DNA viromes of the coral Montastraea cavernosa and expressed sequence tag (EST) libraries generated from Symbiodinium cultures. The M. cavernosa viromes contained divergent viral sequences similar to the major capsid protein of the dinoflagellate-infecting +ssRNA Heterocapsa circularisquama virus, suggesting a highly novel dinornavirus could infect Symbiodinium. Further, similarities to dsDNA viruses dominated (∼69%) eukaryotic viral similarities in the M. cavernosa viromes. Transcripts highly similar to eukaryotic algae-infecting phycodnaviruses were identified in the viromes, and homologs to these sequences were found in two independently generated Symbiodinium EST libraries. Phylogenetic reconstructions substantiate that these transcripts are undescribed and distinct members of the nucleocytoplasmic large DNA virus (NCLDVs) group. Based on a preponderance of evidence, we infer that the novel NCLDVs and RNA virus described here are associated with the algal endosymbionts of corals. If such viruses disrupt Symbiodinium, they are likely to impact the flexibility and/or stability of coral–algal symbioses, and thus long-term reef health and resilience.
PMCID: PMC3526182  PMID: 22791238
coral reef; Heterocapsa circularisquama RNA virus (HcRNAV); nuclear cytoplasmic large DNA virus (NCLDV); Phycodnaviridae; Symbiodinium; virome

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