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J Virol. 1999 Sep;73(9):7710-21.

Evolution and horizontal transfer of dUTPase-encoding genes in viruses and their hosts.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada 89154-4004, USA.


dUTPase is a ubiquitous and essential enzyme responsible for regulating cellular levels of dUTP. The dut gene exists as single, tandemly duplicated, and tandemly triplicated copies. Crystallized single-copy dUTPases have been shown to assemble as homotrimers. dUTPase is encoded as an auxiliary gene in a number of virus genomes. The origin of viral dut genes has remained unresolved since their initial discovery. A comprehensive analysis of dUTPase amino acid sequence relationships was performed to explore the evolutionary dynamics of dut in viruses and their hosts. Our data set, comprised of 24 host and 51 viral sequences, includes representative sequences from available eukaryotes, archaea, eubacteria cells, and viruses, including herpesviruses. These amino acid sequences were aligned by using a hidden Markov model approach developed to align divergent data. Known secondary structures from single-copy crystals were mapped onto the aligned duplicate and triplicate sequences. We show how duplicated dUTPases might fold into a monomer, and we hypothesize that triplicated dUTPases also assemble as monomers. Phylogenetic analysis revealed at least five viral dUTPase sequence lineages in well-supported monophyletic clusters with eukaryotic, eubacterial, and archaeal hosts. We have identified all five as strong examples of horizontal transfer as well as additional potential transfer of dut genes among eubacteria, between eubacteria and viruses, and between retroviruses. The evidence for horizontal transfers is particularly interesting since eukaryotic dut genes have introns, while DNA virus dut genes do not. This implies that an intermediary retroid agent facilitated the horizontal transfer process between host mRNA and DNA viruses.

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