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J Mol Biol. 2005 Jul 15;350(3):427-40.

A snapshot of viral evolution from genome analysis of the tectiviridae family.

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Institute of Biotechnology, University of Helsinki, PO Box 56 (Viikinkaari 4), FIN-00014 Helsinki, Finland.


The origin, evolution and relationships of viruses are all fascinating topics. Current thinking in these areas is strongly influenced by the tailed double-stranded (ds) DNA bacteriophages. These viruses have mosaic genomes produced by genetic exchange and so new natural isolates are quite dissimilar to each other, and to laboratory strains. Consequently, they are not amenable to study by current tools for phylogenetic analysis. Less attention has been paid to the Tectiviridae family, which embraces icosahedral dsDNA bacterial viruses with an internal lipid membrane. It includes viruses, such as PRD1, that infect Gram-negative bacteria, as well as viruses like Bam35 with Gram-positive hosts. Although PRD1 and Bam35 have closely related virion morphology and genome organization, they have no detectable sequence similarity. There is strong evidence that the Bam35 coat protein has the "double-barrel trimer" arrangement of PRD1 that was first observed in adenovirus and is predicted to occur in other viruses with large facets. It is very likely that a single ancestral virus gave rise to this very large group of viruses. The unprecedented degree of conservation recently observed for two Bam35-like tectiviruses made it important to investigate those infecting Gram-negative bacteria. The DNA sequences for six PRD1-like isolates (PRD1, PR3, PR4, PR5, L17, PR772) have now been determined. Remarkably, these bacteriophages, isolated at distinctly different dates and global locations, have almost identical genomes. The discovery of almost invariant genomes for the two main Tectiviridae groups contrasts sharply with the situation in the tailed dsDNA bacteriophages. Notably, it permits a sequence analysis of the isolates revealing that the tectiviral proteins can be dissected into a slowly evolving group descended from the ancestor, the viral self, and a more rapidly changing group reflecting interactions with the host.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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