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2.  The Dispersed Archaeal Eukaryome and the Complex Archaeal Ancestor of Eukaryotes 
The ancestral set of eukaryotic genes is a chimera composed of genes of archaeal and bacterial origins thanks to the endosymbiosis event that gave rise to the mitochondria and apparently antedated the last common ancestor of the extant eukaryotes. The proto-mitochondrial endosymbiont is confidently identified as an α-proteobacterium. In contrast, the archaeal ancestor of eukaryotes remains elusive, although evidence is accumulating that it could have belonged to a deep lineage within the TACK (Thaumarchaeota, Aigarchaeota, Crenarchaeota, Korarchaeota) superphylum of the Archaea. Recent surveys of archaeal genomes show that the apparent ancestors of several key functional systems of eukaryotes, the components of the archaeal “eukaryome,” such as ubiquitin signaling, RNA interference, and actin-based and tubulin-based cytoskeleton structures, are identifiable in different archaeal groups. We suggest that the archaeal ancestor of eukaryotes was a complex form, rooted deeply within the TACK superphylum, that already possessed some quintessential eukaryotic features, in particular, a cytoskeleton, and perhaps was capable of a primitive form of phagocytosis that would facilitate the engulfment of potential symbionts. This putative group of Archaea could have existed for a relatively short time before going extinct or undergoing genome streamlining, resulting in the dispersion of the eukaryome. This scenario might explain the difficulty with the identification of the archaeal ancestor of eukaryotes despite the straightforward detection of apparent ancestors to many signature eukaryotic functional systems.
The apparent ancestors of key eukaryotic features (e.g., ubiquitin signaling, RNA interference, and cytoskeletal structures) are identifiable in different Archaea. But the specific archaeal ancestor of eukaryotes remains elusive.
PMCID: PMC3970416  PMID: 24691961
3.  A novel group of diverse Polinton-like viruses discovered by metagenome analysis 
BMC Biology  2015;13:95.
The rapidly growing metagenomic databases provide increasing opportunities for computational discovery of new groups of organisms. Identification of new viruses is particularly straightforward given the comparatively small size of viral genomes, although fast evolution of viruses complicates the analysis of novel sequences. Here we report the metagenomic discovery of a distinct group of diverse viruses that are distantly related to the eukaryotic virus-like transposons of the Polinton superfamily.
The sequence of the putative major capsid protein (MCP) of the unusual linear virophage associated with Phaeocystis globosa virus (PgVV) was used as a bait to identify potential related viruses in metagenomic databases. Assembly of the contigs encoding the PgVV MCP homologs followed by comprehensive sequence analysis of the proteins encoded in these contigs resulted in the identification of a large group of Polinton-like viruses (PLV) that resemble Polintons (polintoviruses) and virophages in genome size, and share with them a conserved minimal morphogenetic module that consists of major and minor capsid proteins and the packaging ATPase. With a single exception, the PLV lack the retrovirus-type integrase that is encoded in the genomes of all Polintons and the Mavirus group of virophages. However, some PLV encode a newly identified tyrosine recombinase-integrase that is common in bacteria and bacteriophages and is also found in the Organic Lake virophage group. Although several PLV genomes and individual genes are integrated into algal genomes, it appears likely that most of the PLV are viruses. Given the absence of protease and retrovirus-type integrase, the PLV could resemble the ancestral polintoviruses that evolved from bacterial tectiviruses. Apart from the conserved minimal morphogenetic module, the PLV widely differ in their genome complements but share a gene network with Polintons and virophages, suggestive of multiple gene exchanges within a shared gene pool.
The discovery of PLV substantially expands the emerging class of eukaryotic viruses and transposons that also includes Polintons and virophages. This class of selfish elements is extremely widespread and might have been a hotbed of eukaryotic virus, transposon and plasmid evolution. New families of these elements are expected to be discovered.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12915-015-0207-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4642659  PMID: 26560305
4.  Origin of giant viruses from smaller DNA viruses not from a fourth domain of cellular life 
Virology  2014;0:38-52.
The numerous and diverse eukaryotic viruses with large double-stranded DNA genomes that at least partially reproduce in the cytoplasm of infected cells apparently evolved from a single virus ancestor. This major group of viruses is known as Nucleocytoplasmic Large DNA Viruses (NCLDV) or the proposed order Megavirales. Among the “Megavirales”, there are three groups of giant viruses with genomes exceeding 500 kb, namely Mimiviruses, Pithoviruses, and Pandoraviruses that hold the current record of viral genome size, about 2.5 Mb. Phylogenetic analysis of conserved, ancestral NLCDV genes clearly shows that these three groups of giant viruses have three distinct origins within the “Megavirales”. The Mimiviruses constitute a distinct family that is distantly related to Phycodnaviridae, Pandoraviruses originate from a common ancestor with Coccolithoviruses within the Phycodnaviridae family, and Pithoviruses are related to Iridoviridae and Marseilleviridae. Maximum likelihood reconstruction of gene gain and loss events during the evolution of the “Megavirales” indicates that each group of giant viruses evolved from viruses with substantially smaller and simpler gene repertoires. Initial phylogenetic analysis of universal genes, such as translation system components, encoded by some giant viruses, in particular Mimiviruses, has led to the hypothesis that giant viruses descend from a fourth, probably extinct domain of cellular life. The results of our comprehensive phylogenomic analysis of giant viruses refute the fourth domain hypothesis and instead indicate that the universal genes have been independently acquired by different giant viruses from their eukaryotic hosts.
PMCID: PMC4325995  PMID: 25042053
5.  Salmon Gill Poxvirus, the Deepest Representative of the Chordopoxvirinae 
Journal of Virology  2015;89(18):9348-9367.
Poxviruses are large DNA viruses of vertebrates and insects causing disease in many animal species, including reptiles, birds, and mammals. Although poxvirus-like particles were detected in diseased farmed koi carp, ayu, and Atlantic salmon, their genetic relationships to poxviruses were not established. Here, we provide the first genome sequence of a fish poxvirus, which was isolated from farmed Atlantic salmon. In the present study, we used quantitative PCR and immunohistochemistry to determine aspects of salmon gill poxvirus disease, which are described here. The gill was the main target organ where immature and mature poxvirus particles were detected. The particles were detected in detaching, apoptotic respiratory epithelial cells preceding clinical disease in the form of lethargy, respiratory distress, and mortality. In moribund salmon, blocking of gas exchange would likely be caused by the adherence of respiratory lamellae and epithelial proliferation obstructing respiratory surfaces. The virus was not found in healthy salmon or in control fish with gill disease without apoptotic cells, although transmission remains to be demonstrated. PCR of archival tissue confirmed virus infection in 14 cases with gill apoptosis in Norway starting from 1995. Phylogenomic analyses showed that the fish poxvirus is the deepest available branch of chordopoxviruses. The virus genome encompasses most key chordopoxvirus genes that are required for genome replication and expression, although the gene order is substantially different from that in other chordopoxviruses. Nevertheless, many highly conserved chordopoxvirus genes involved in viral membrane biogenesis or virus-host interactions are missing. Instead, the salmon poxvirus carries numerous genes encoding unknown proteins, many of which have low sequence complexity and contain simple repeats suggestive of intrinsic disorder or distinct protein structures.
IMPORTANCE Aquaculture is an increasingly important global source of high-quality food. To sustain the growth in aquaculture, disease control in fish farming is essential. Moreover, the spread of disease from farmed fish to wildlife is a concern. Serious poxviral diseases are emerging in aquaculture, but very little is known about the viruses and the diseases that they cause. There is a possibility that viruses with enhanced virulence may spread to new species, as has occurred with the myxoma poxvirus in rabbits. Provision of the first fish poxvirus genome sequence and specific diagnostics for the salmon gill poxvirus in Atlantic salmon may help curb this disease and provide comparative knowledge. Furthermore, because salmon gill poxvirus represents the deepest branch of chordopoxvirus so far discovered, the genome analysis provided substantial insight into the evolution of different functional modules in this important group of viruses.
PMCID: PMC4542343  PMID: 26136578
6.  A new family of hybrid virophages from an animal gut metagenome 
Biology Direct  2015;10:19.
Search of metagenomics sequence databases for homologs of virophage capsid proteins resulted in the discovery of a new family of virophages in the sheep rumen metagenome. The genomes of the rumen virophages (RVP) encode a typical virophage major capsid protein, ATPase and protease combined with a Polinton-type, protein primed family B DNA polymerase. The RVP genomes appear to be linear molecules, with terminal inverted repeats. Thus, the RVP seem to represent virophage-Polinton hybrids that are likely capable of formation of infectious virions. Virion proteins of mimiviruses were detected in the same metagenomes as the RVP suggesting that the virophages of the new family parasitize on giant viruses that infect protist inhabitants of the rumen.
This article was reviewed by Mart Krupovic and Kenneth Stedman; for complete reviews, see the Reviewers’ Reports section.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13062-015-0054-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4409740  PMID: 25909276
7.  Evolution of double-stranded DNA viruses of eukaryotes: from bacteriophages to transposons to giant viruses 
Diverse eukaryotes including animals and protists are hosts to a broad variety of viruses with double-stranded (ds) DNA genomes, from the largest known viruses, such as pandoraviruses and mimiviruses, to tiny polyomaviruses. Recent comparative genomic analyses have revealed many evolutionary connections between dsDNA viruses of eukaryotes, bacteriophages, transposable elements, and linear DNA plasmids. These findings provide an evolutionary scenario that derives several major groups of eukaryotic dsDNA viruses, including the proposed order “Megavirales,” adenoviruses, and virophages from a group of large virus-like transposons known as Polintons (Mavericks). The Polintons have been recently shown to encode two capsid proteins, suggesting that these elements lead a dual lifestyle with both a transposon and a viral phase and should perhaps more appropriately be named polintoviruses. Here, we describe the recently identified evolutionary relationships between bacteriophages of the family Tectiviridae, polintoviruses, adenoviruses, virophages, large and giant DNA viruses of eukaryotes of the proposed order “Megavirales,” and linear mitochondrial and cytoplasmic plasmids. We outline an evolutionary scenario under which the polintoviruses were the first group of eukaryotic dsDNA viruses that evolved from bacteriophages and became the ancestors of most large DNA viruses of eukaryotes and a variety of other selfish elements. Distinct lines of origin are detectable only for herpesviruses (from a different bacteriophage root) and polyoma/papillomaviruses (from single-stranded DNA viruses and ultimately from plasmids). Phylogenomic analysis of giant viruses provides compelling evidence of their independent origins from smaller members of the putative order “Megavirales,” refuting the speculations on the evolution of these viruses from an extinct fourth domain of cellular life.
PMCID: PMC4405056  PMID: 25727355
Polintons; Megavirales; virus evolution; capsid proteins; translation
8.  Babela massiliensis, a representative of a widespread bacterial phylum with unusual adaptations to parasitism in amoebae 
Biology Direct  2015;10:13.
Only a small fraction of bacteria and archaea that are identifiable by metagenomics can be grown on standard media. Recent efforts on deep metagenomics sequencing, single-cell genomics and the use of specialized culture conditions (culturomics) increasingly yield novel microbes some of which represent previously uncharacterized phyla and possess unusual biological traits.
We report isolation and genome analysis of Babela massiliensis, an obligate intracellular parasite of Acanthamoeba castellanii. B. massiliensis shows an unusual, fission mode of cell multiplication whereby large, polymorphic bodies accumulate in the cytoplasm of infected amoeba and then split into mature bacterial cells. This unique mechanism of cell division is associated with a deep degradation of the cell division machinery and delayed expression of the ftsZ gene. The genome of B. massiliensis consists of a circular chromosome approximately 1.12 megabase in size that encodes, 981 predicted proteins, 38 tRNAs and one typical rRNA operon. Phylogenetic analysis shows that B. massiliensis belongs to the putative bacterial phylum TM6 that so far was represented by the draft genome of the JCVI TM6SC1 bacterium obtained by single cell genomics and numerous environmental sequences.
Currently, B. massiliensis is the only cultivated member of the putative TM6 phylum. Phylogenomic analysis shows diverse taxonomic affinities for B. massiliensis genes, suggestive of multiple gene acquisitions via horizontal transfer from other bacteria and eukaryotes. Horizontal gene transfer is likely to be facilitated by the cohabitation of diverse parasites and symbionts inside amoeba. B. massiliensis encompasses many genes encoding proteins implicated in parasite-host interaction including the greatest number of ankyrin repeats among sequenced bacteria and diverse proteins related to the ubiquitin system. Characterization of B. massiliensis, a representative of a distinct bacterial phylum, thanks to its ability to grow in amoeba, reaffirms the critical role of diverse culture approaches in microbiology.
This article was reviewed by Dr. Igor Zhulin, Dr. Jeremy Selengut, and Pr Martijn Huynen.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13062-015-0043-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4378268  PMID: 25884386
Intracellular bacteria; Amoeba; Bacterial replication
9.  Chordopoxvirus protein F12 implicated in enveloped virion morphogenesis is an inactivated DNA polymerase 
Biology Direct  2014;9:22.
Through the course of their evolution, viruses with large genomes have acquired numerous host genes, most of which perform function in virus reproduction in a manner that is related to their original activities in the cells, but some are exapted for new roles. Here we report the unexpected finding that protein F12, which is conserved among the chordopoxviruses and is implicated in the morphogenesis of enveloped intracellular virions, is a derived DNA polymerase, possibly of bacteriophage origin, in which the polymerase domain and probably the exonuclease domain have been inactivated. Thus, F12 appears to present a rare example of a drastic, exaptive functional change in virus evolution.
Reviewers: This article was reviewed by Frank Eisenhaber and Juergen Brosius. For complete reviews, go the Reviewers’ Reports section.
PMCID: PMC4304020  PMID: 25374149
DNA polymerase; Exaptation; Poxviruses; Evolution of viruses
10.  “Megavirales”, a proposed new order for eukaryotic nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses 
Archives of virology  2013;158(12):2517-2521.
The nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses (NCLDVs) comprise a monophyletic group of viruses that infect animals and diverse unicellular eukaryotes. The NCLDV group includes the families Poxviridae, Asfarviridae, Iridoviridae, Ascoviridae, Phycodnaviridae, Mimiviridae and the proposed family “Marseilleviridae”. The family Mimiviridae includes the largest known viruses, with genomes in excess of one megabase, whereas the genome size in the other NCLDV families varies from 100 to 400 kilobase pairs. Most of the NCLDVs replicate in the cytoplasm of infected cells, within so-called virus factories. The NCLDVs share a common ancient origin, as demonstrated by evolutionary reconstructions that trace approximately 50 genes encoding key proteins involved in viral replication and virion formation to the last common ancestor of all these viruses. Taken together, these characteristics lead us to propose assigning an official taxonomic rank to the NCLDVs as the order “Megavirales”, in reference to the large size of the virions and genomes of these viruses.
PMCID: PMC4066373  PMID: 23812617
11.  A genomic update on clostridial phylogeny: Gram-negative spore-formers and other misplaced clostridia 
Environmental microbiology  2013;15(10):2631-2641.
The class Clostridia in the phylum Firmicutes (formerly low-G+C Gram-positive bacteria) includes diverse bacteria of medical, environmental, and biotechnological importance. The Selenomonas-Megasphaera-Sporomusa branch, which unifies members of the Firmicutes with Gram-negative-type cell envelopes, was recently moved from Clostridia to a separate class Negativicutes. However, draft genome sequences of the spore-forming members of the Negativicutes revealed typically clostridial sets of sporulation genes. To address this and other questions in clostridial phylogeny, we have compared a phylogenetic tree for a concatenated set of 50 widespread ribosomal proteins with the trees for beta subunits of the RNA polymerase (RpoB) and DNA gyrase (GyrB) and with the 16S rRNA-based phylogeny. The results obtained by these methods showed remarkable consistency, suggesting that they reflect the true evolutionary history of these bacteria. These data put the Selenomonas-Megasphaera-Sporomusa group back within the Clostridia. They also support placement of Clostridium difficile and its close relatives within the family Peptostreptococcaceae; we suggest resolving the long-standing naming conundrum by renaming it Peptoclostridium difficile. These data also indicate the existence of a group of cellulolytic clostridia that belong to the family Ruminococcaceae. As a tentative solution to resolve the current taxonomical problems, we propose assigning 78 validly described Clostridium species that clearly fall outside the family Clostridiaceae to six new genera: Peptoclostridium, Lachnoclostridium, Ruminiclostridium, Erysipelatoclostridium, Gottschalkia, and Tyzzerella. This work reaffirms that 16S rRNA and ribosomal protein sequences are better indicators of evolutionary proximity than phenotypic traits, even such key ones as the structure of the cell envelope and Gram-staining pattern.
PMCID: PMC4056668  PMID: 23834245
Sporulation; taxonomy; Gram staining; cellulose; xylan; Clostridium difficile
12.  Pandoraviruses are highly derived phycodnaviruses 
Biology Direct  2013;8:25.
The recently discovered Pandoraviruses are by far the largest viruses known, with their 2 megabase genomes exceeding in size the genomes of numerous bacteria and archaea. Pandoraviruses show a distant relationship with other nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses (NCLDV) of eukaryotes, lack some of the NCLDV core genes and in particular do not appear to be specifically related to the other, better characterized family of giant viruses, the Mimiviridae. Here we report phylogenetic analysis of 6 core NCLDV genes that confidently places Pandoraviruses within the family Phycodnaviridae, with an apparent specific affinity with Coccolithoviruses. We conclude that, despite their many unusual characteristics, Pandoraviruses are highly derived phycodnaviruses. These findings imply that giant viruses have independently evolved from smaller NCLDV on at least two occasions.
This article was reviewed by Patrick Forterre and Lakshminarayan Iyer. For the full reviews, see the Reviewers’ reports section.
PMCID: PMC3924356  PMID: 24148757
13.  Virophages, polintons, and transpovirons: a complex evolutionary network of diverse selfish genetic elements with different reproduction strategies 
Virology Journal  2013;10:158.
Recent advances of genomics and metagenomics reveal remarkable diversity of viruses and other selfish genetic elements. In particular, giant viruses have been shown to possess their own mobilomes that include virophages, small viruses that parasitize on giant viruses of the Mimiviridae family, and transpovirons, distinct linear plasmids. One of the virophages known as the Mavirus, a parasite of the giant Cafeteria roenbergensis virus, shares several genes with large eukaryotic self-replicating transposon of the Polinton (Maverick) family, and it has been proposed that the polintons evolved from a Mavirus-like ancestor.
We performed a comprehensive phylogenomic analysis of the available genomes of virophages and traced the evolutionary connections between the virophages and other selfish genetic elements. The comparison of the gene composition and genome organization of the virophages reveals 6 conserved, core genes that are organized in partially conserved arrays. Phylogenetic analysis of those core virophage genes, for which a sufficient diversity of homologs outside the virophages was detected, including the maturation protease and the packaging ATPase, supports the monophyly of the virophages. The results of this analysis appear incompatible with the origin of polintons from a Mavirus-like agent but rather suggest that Mavirus evolved through recombination between a polinton and an unknownvirus. Altogether, virophages, polintons, a distinct Tetrahymena transposable element Tlr1, transpovirons, adenoviruses, and some bacteriophages form a network of evolutionary relationships that is held together by overlapping sets of shared genes and appears to represent a distinct module in the vast total network of viruses and mobile elements.
The results of the phylogenomic analysis of the virophages and related genetic elements are compatible with the concept of network-like evolution of the virus world and emphasize multiple evolutionary connections between bona fide viruses and other classes of capsid-less mobile elements.
PMCID: PMC3671162  PMID: 23701946
14.  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
15.  Updated clusters of orthologous genes for Archaea: a complex ancestor of the Archaea and the byways of horizontal gene transfer 
Biology Direct  2012;7:46.
Collections of Clusters of Orthologous Genes (COGs) provide indispensable tools for comparative genomic analysis, evolutionary reconstruction and functional annotation of new genomes. Initially, COGs were made for all complete genomes of cellular life forms that were available at the time. However, with the accumulation of thousands of complete genomes, construction of a comprehensive COG set has become extremely computationally demanding and prone to error propagation, necessitating the switch to taxon-specific COG collections. Previously, we reported the collection of COGs for 41 genomes of Archaea (arCOGs). Here we present a major update of the arCOGs and describe evolutionary reconstructions to reveal general trends in the evolution of Archaea.
The updated version of the arCOG database incorporates 91% of the pangenome of 120 archaea (251,032 protein-coding genes altogether) into 10,335 arCOGs. Using this new set of arCOGs, we performed maximum likelihood reconstruction of the genome content of archaeal ancestral forms and gene gain and loss events in archaeal evolution. This reconstruction shows that the last Common Ancestor of the extant Archaea was an organism of greater complexity than most of the extant archaea, probably with over 2,500 protein-coding genes. The subsequent evolution of almost all archaeal lineages was apparently dominated by gene loss resulting in genome streamlining. Overall, in the evolution of Archaea as well as a representative set of bacteria that was similarly analyzed for comparison, gene losses are estimated to outnumber gene gains at least 4 to 1. Analysis of specific patterns of gene gain in Archaea shows that, although some groups, in particular Halobacteria, acquire substantially more genes than others, on the whole, gene exchange between major groups of Archaea appears to be largely random, with no major ‘highways’ of horizontal gene transfer.
The updated collection of arCOGs is expected to become a key resource for comparative genomics, evolutionary reconstruction and functional annotation of new archaeal genomes. Given that, in spite of the major increase in the number of genomes, the conserved core of archaeal genes appears to be stabilizing, the major evolutionary trends revealed here have a chance to stand the test of time.
This article was reviewed by (for complete reviews see the Reviewers’ Reports section): Dr. PLG, Prof. PF, Dr. PL (nominated by Prof. JPG).
PMCID: PMC3534625  PMID: 23241446
Archaea; Orthologs; Horizontal gene transfer
16.  Related Giant Viruses in Distant Locations and Different Habitats: Acanthamoeba polyphaga moumouvirus Represents a Third Lineage of the Mimiviridae That Is Close to the Megavirus Lineage 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2012;4(12):1324-1330.
The 1,021,348 base pair genome sequence of the Acanthamoeba polyphaga moumouvirus, a new member of the Mimiviridae family infecting Acanthamoeba polyphaga, is reported. The moumouvirus represents a third lineage beside mimivirus and megavirus. Thereby, it is a new member of the recently proposed Megavirales order. This giant virus was isolated from a cooling tower water in southeastern France but is most closely related to Megavirus chiliensis, which was isolated from ocean water off the coast of Chile. The moumouvirus is predicted to encode 930 proteins, of which 879 have detectable homologs. Among these predicted proteins, for 702 the closest homolog was detected in Megavirus chiliensis, with the median amino acid sequence identity of 62%. The evolutionary affinity of moumouvirus and megavirus was further supported by phylogenetic tree analysis of conserved genes. The moumouvirus and megavirus genomes share near perfect orthologous gene collinearity in the central part of the genome, with the variations concentrated in the terminal regions. In addition, genomic comparisons of the Mimiviridae reveal substantial gene loss in the moumouvirus lineage. The majority of the remaining moumouvirus proteins are most similar to homologs from other Mimiviridae members, and for 27 genes the closest homolog was found in bacteria. Phylogenetic analysis of these genes supported gene acquisition from diverse bacteria after the separation of the moumouvirus and megavirus lineages. Comparative genome analysis of the three lineages of the Mimiviridae revealed significant mobility of Group I self-splicing introns, with the highest intron content observed in the moumouvirus genome.
PMCID: PMC3542560  PMID: 23221609
moumouvirus; mimivirus; giant virus; megavirus; Mimiviridae; Megavirales; horizontal gene transfer; viral genome; nucleo-cytoplasmic large DNA viruses
17.  Proteorhodopsin genes in giant viruses 
Biology Direct  2012;7:34.
Viruses with large genomes encode numerous proteins that do not directly participate in virus biogenesis but rather modify key functional systems of infected cells. We report that a distinct group of giant viruses infecting unicellular eukaryotes that includes Organic Lake Phycodnaviruses and Phaeocystis globosa virus encode predicted proteorhodopsins that have not been previously detected in viruses. Search of metagenomic sequence data shows that putative viral proteorhodopsins are extremely abundant in marine environments. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that giant viruses acquired proteorhodopsins via horizontal gene transfer from proteorhodopsin-encoding protists although the actual donor(s) could not be presently identified. The pattern of conservation of the predicted functionally important amino acid residues suggests that viral proteorhodopsin homologs function as sensory rhodopsins. We hypothesize that viral rhodopsins modulate light-dependent signaling, in particular phototaxis, in infected protists.
This article was reviewed by Igor B. Zhulin and Laksminarayan M. Iyer. For the full reviews, see the Reviewers’ reports section.
PMCID: PMC3500653  PMID: 23036091
18.  Hidden evolutionary complexity of Nucleo-Cytoplasmic Large DNA viruses of eukaryotes 
Virology Journal  2012;9:161.
The Nucleo-Cytoplasmic Large DNA Viruses (NCLDV) constitute an apparently monophyletic group that consists of at least 6 families of viruses infecting a broad variety of eukaryotic hosts. A comprehensive genome comparison and maximum-likelihood reconstruction of the NCLDV evolution revealed a set of approximately 50 conserved, core genes that could be mapped to the genome of the common ancestor of this class of eukaryotic viruses.
We performed a detailed phylogenetic analysis of these core NCLDV genes and applied the constrained tree approach to show that the majority of the core genes are unlikely to be monophyletic. Several of the core genes have been independently acquired from different sources by different NCLDV lineages whereas for the majority of these genes displacement by homologs from cellular organisms in one or more groups of the NCLDV was demonstrated.
A detailed study of the evolution of the genomic core of the NCLDV reveals substantial complexity and diversity of evolutionary scenarios that was largely unsuspected previously. The phylogenetic coherence between the core genes is sufficient to validate the hypothesis on the evolution of all NCLDV from a common ancestral virus although the set of ancestral genes might be smaller than previously inferred from patterns of gene presence-absence.
PMCID: PMC3493329  PMID: 22891861
19.  Phylogenomics of Prokaryotic Ribosomal Proteins 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36972.
Archaeal and bacterial ribosomes contain more than 50 proteins, including 34 that are universally conserved in the three domains of cellular life (bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes). Despite the high sequence conservation, annotation of ribosomal (r-) protein genes is often difficult because of their short lengths and biased sequence composition. We developed an automated computational pipeline for identification of r-protein genes and applied it to 995 completely sequenced bacterial and 87 archaeal genomes available in the RefSeq database. The pipeline employs curated seed alignments of r-proteins to run position-specific scoring matrix (PSSM)-based BLAST searches against six-frame genome translations, mitigating possible gene annotation errors. As a result of this analysis, we performed a census of prokaryotic r-protein complements, enumerated missing and paralogous r-proteins, and analyzed the distributions of ribosomal protein genes among chromosomal partitions. Phyletic patterns of bacterial and archaeal r-protein genes were mapped to phylogenetic trees reconstructed from concatenated alignments of r-proteins to reveal the history of likely multiple independent gains and losses. These alignments, available for download, can be used as search profiles to improve genome annotation of r-proteins and for further comparative genomics studies.
PMCID: PMC3353972  PMID: 22615861
20.  Archaeal origin of tubulin 
Biology Direct  2012;7:10.
Tubulins are a family of GTPases that are key components of the cytoskeleton in all eukaryotes and are distantly related to the FtsZ GTPase that is involved in cell division in most bacteria and many archaea. Among prokaryotes, bona fide tubulins have been identified only in bacteria of the genus Prosthecobacter. These bacterial tubulin genes appear to have been horizontally transferred from eukaryotes. Here we describe tubulins encoded in the genomes of thaumarchaeota of the genus Nitrosoarchaeum that we denote artubulins Phylogenetic analysis results are compatible with the origin of eukaryotic tubulins from artubulins. These findings expand the emerging picture of the origin of key components of eukaryotic functional systems from ancestral forms that are scattered among the extant archaea.
This article was reviewed by Gáspár Jékely and J. Peter Gogarten.
PMCID: PMC3349469  PMID: 22458654
21.  Evolution of diverse cell division and vesicle formation systems in Archaea 
Nature Reviews. Microbiology  2010;8(10):731-741.
Recently a novel cell division system comprised of homologues of eukaryotic ESCRT-III (endosomal sorting complex required for transport III) proteins was discovered in the hyperthermophilic crenarchaeote Sulfolobus acidocaldarius. On the basis of this discovery, we undertook a comparative genomic analysis of the machineries for cell division and vesicle formation in Archaea. Archaea possess at least three distinct membrane remodelling systems: the FtsZ-based bacterial-type system, the ESCRT-III-based eukaryote-like system and a putative novel system that uses an archaeal actin-related protein. Many archaeal genomes encode assortments of components from different systems. Evolutionary reconstruction from these findings suggests that the last common ancestor of the extant Archaea possessed a complex membrane remodelling apparatus, different components of which were lost during subsequent evolution of archaeal lineages. By contrast, eukaryotes seem to have inherited all three ancestral systems.
PMCID: PMC3293450  PMID: 20818414
22.  Phylogenomics of prokaryotic ribosomal proteins 
Genome Biology  2011;12(Suppl 1):P30.
PMCID: PMC3439054
23.  Viruses with More Than 1,000 Genes: Mamavirus, a New Acanthamoeba polyphaga mimivirus Strain, and Reannotation of Mimivirus Genes 
The genome sequence of the Mamavirus, a new Acanthamoeba polyphaga mimivirus strain, is reported. With 1,191,693 nt in length and 1,023 predicted protein-coding genes, the Mamavirus has the largest genome among the known viruses. The genomes of the Mamavirus and the previously described Mimivirus are highly similar in both the protein-coding genes and the intergenic regions. However, the Mamavirus contains an extra 5′-terminal segment that encompasses primarily disrupted duplicates of genes present elsewhere in the genome. The Mamavirus also has several unique genes including a small regulatory polyA polymerase subunit that is shared with poxviruses. Detailed analysis of the protein sequences of the two Mimiviruses led to a substantial amendment of the functional annotation of the viral genomes.
PMCID: PMC3163472  PMID: 21705471
Mimivirus; viral genome; nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses
24.  Origin and Evolution of Eukaryotic Large Nucleo-Cytoplasmic DNA Viruses 
Intervirology  2010;53(5):284-292.
The nucleo-cytoplasmic large DNA viruses (NCLDV) constitute an apparently monophyletic group that consists of 6 families of viruses infecting a broad variety of eukaryotes. A comprehensive genome comparison and maximum-likelihood reconstruction of NCLDV evolution reveal a set of approximately 50 conserved genes that can be tentatively mapped to the genome of the common ancestor of this class of eukaryotic viruses. We address the origins and evolution of NCLDV.
Phylogenetic analysis indicates that some of the major clades of NCLDV infect diverse animals and protists, suggestive of early radiation of the NCLDV, possibly concomitant with eukaryogenesis. The core NCLDV genes seem to have originated from different sources including homologous genes of bacteriophages, bacteria and eukaryotes. These observations are compatible with a scenario of the origin of the NCLDV at an early stage of the evolution of eukaryotes through extensive mixing of genes from widely different genomes.
The common ancestor of the NCLDV probably evolved from a bacteriophage as a result of recruitment of numerous eukaryotic and some bacterial genes, and concomitant loss of the majority of phage genes except for a small core of genes coding for proteins essential for virus genome replication and virion formation.
PMCID: PMC2895762  PMID: 20551680
Bacteriophage; Eukaryogenesis; Nucleo-cytoplasmic large DNA viruses, evolution; Phylogenetic analysis
25.  Abundance of type I toxin–antitoxin systems in bacteria: searches for new candidates and discovery of novel families 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(11):3743-3759.
Small, hydrophobic proteins whose synthesis is repressed by small RNAs (sRNAs), denoted type I toxin–antitoxin modules, were first discovered on plasmids where they regulate plasmid stability, but were subsequently found on a few bacterial chromosomes. We used exhaustive PSI-BLAST and TBLASTN searches across 774 bacterial genomes to identify homologs of known type I toxins. These searches substantially expanded the collection of predicted type I toxins, revealed homology of the Ldr and Fst toxins, and suggested that type I toxin–antitoxin loci are not spread by horizontal gene transfer. To discover novel type I toxin–antitoxin systems, we developed a set of search parameters based on characteristics of known loci including the presence of tandem repeats and clusters of charged and bulky amino acids at the C-termini of short proteins containing predicted transmembrane regions. We detected sRNAs for three predicted toxins from enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis, and showed that two of the respective proteins indeed are toxic when overexpressed. We also demonstrated that the local free-energy minima of RNA folding can be used to detect the positions of the sRNA genes. Our results suggest that type I toxin–antitoxin modules are much more widely distributed among bacteria than previously appreciated.
PMCID: PMC2887945  PMID: 20156992

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