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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.
doi:10.1093/nar/gki702
PMCID: PMC1176014  PMID: 16027112
2.  Comparative genomics of the FtsK–HerA superfamily of pumping ATPases: implications for the origins of chromosome segregation, cell division and viral capsid packaging 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(17):5260-5279.
Recently, it has been shown that a predicted P-loop ATPase (the HerA or MlaA protein), which is highly conserved in archaea and also present in many bacteria but absent in eukaryotes, has a bidirectional helicase activity and forms hexameric rings similar to those described for the TrwB ATPase. In this study, the FtsK–HerA superfamily of P-loop ATPases, in which the HerA clade comprises one of the major branches, is analyzed in detail. We show that, in addition to the FtsK and HerA clades, this superfamily includes several families of characterized or predicted ATPases which are predominantly involved in extrusion of DNA and peptides through membrane pores. The DNA-packaging ATPases of various bacteriophages and eukaryotic double-stranded DNA viruses also belong to the FtsK–HerA superfamily. The FtsK protein is the essential bacterial ATPase that is responsible for the correct segregation of daughter chromosomes during cell division. The structural and evolutionary relationship between HerA and FtsK and the nearly perfect complementarity of their phyletic distributions suggest that HerA similarly mediates DNA pumping into the progeny cells during archaeal cell division. It appears likely that the HerA and FtsK families diverged concomitantly with the archaeal–bacterial division and that the last universal common ancestor of modern life forms had an ancestral DNA-pumping ATPase that gave rise to these families. Furthermore, the relationship of these cellular proteins with the packaging ATPases of diverse DNA viruses suggests that a common DNA pumping mechanism might be operational in both cellular and viral genome segregation. The herA gene forms a highly conserved operon with the gene for the NurA nuclease and, in many archaea, also with the orthologs of eukaryotic double-strand break repair proteins MRE11 and Rad50. HerA is predicted to function in a complex with these proteins in DNA pumping and repair of double-stranded breaks introduced during this process and, possibly, also during DNA replication. Extensive comparative analysis of the ‘genomic context’ combined with in-depth sequence analysis led to the prediction of numerous previously unnoticed nucleases of the NurA superfamily, including a specific version that is likely to be the endonuclease component of a novel restriction-modification system. This analysis also led to the identification of previously uncharacterized nucleases, such as a novel predicted nuclease of the Sir2-type Rossmann fold, and phosphatases of the HAD superfamily that are likely to function as partners of the FtsK–HerA superfamily ATPases.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkh828
PMCID: PMC521647  PMID: 15466593
3.  Common Origin of Four Diverse Families of Large Eukaryotic DNA Viruses 
Journal of Virology  2001;75(23):11720-11734.
Comparative analysis of the protein sequences encoded in the genomes of three families of large DNA viruses that replicate, completely or partly, in the cytoplasm of eukaryotic cells (poxviruses, asfarviruses, and iridoviruses) and phycodnaviruses that replicate in the nucleus reveals 9 genes that are shared by all of these viruses and 22 more genes that are present in at least three of the four compared viral families. Although orthologous proteins from different viral families typically show weak sequence similarity, because of which some of them have not been identified previously, at least five of the conserved genes appear to be synapomorphies (shared derived characters) that unite these four viral families, to the exclusion of all other known viruses and cellular life forms. Cladistic analysis with the genes shared by at least two viral families as evolutionary characters supports the monophyly of poxviruses, asfarviruses, iridoviruses, and phycodnaviruses. The results of genome comparison allow a tentative reconstruction of the ancestral viral genome and suggest that the common ancestor of all of these viral families was a nucleocytoplasmic virus with an icosahedral capsid, which encoded complex systems for DNA replication and transcription, a redox protein involved in disulfide bond formation in virion membrane proteins, and probably inhibitors of apoptosis. The conservation of the disulfide-oxidoreductase, a major capsid protein, and two virion membrane proteins indicates that the odd-shaped virions of poxviruses have evolved from the more common icosahedral virion seen in asfarviruses, iridoviruses, and phycodnaviruses.
doi:10.1128/JVI.75.23.11720-11734.2001
PMCID: PMC114758  PMID: 11689653

Results 1-3 (3)