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Mol Cell. 2004 Dec 3;16(5):673-85.

Does common architecture reveal a viral lineage spanning all three domains of life?

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The Wistar Institute, 3601 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


Our discovery that the major coat protein of bacteriophage PRD1 resembles that of human adenovirus raised the unexpected possibility that viruses infecting bacteria could be related by evolution to those infecting animal hosts. We first review the development of this idea. We then describe how we have used structure-based modeling to show that several other viruses with no detectable sequence similarity are likely to have coats constructed from similar proteins-the "double-barrel trimer." There is evidence that the group includes a diversity of viruses infecting very different hosts in all three domains of life: Eukarya; Bacteria; and Archaea that diverged billions of years ago. The current classification of viruses obscures such similarities. We propose that the occurrence of a double-barrel trimer coat protein in an icosahedral dsDNA virus with large facets, irrespective of its host, is a very strong indicator of its membership in a lineage of viruses with a common ancestor.

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