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J Gen Virol. 2006 Apr;87(Pt 4):1013-7.

Origin and evolution of overlapping genes in the family Microviridae.

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Department of Genetics, Anthropology and Evolution, University of Parma, Parco Area delle Scienze 11/A, I-43100 Parma, Italy.


The possibility of creating novel genes from pre-existing sequences, known as overprinting, is a widespread phenomenon in small viruses. Here, the origin and evolution of gene overlap in the bacteriophages belonging to the family Microviridae have been investigated. The distinction between ancestral and derived frames was carried out by comparing the patterns of codon usage in overlapping and non-overlapping genes. By this approach, a gradual increase in complexity of the phage genome--from an ancestral state lacking gene overlap to a derived state with a high density of genetic information--was inferred. Genes encoding less-essential proteins, yet playing a role in phage growth and diffusion, were predicted to be novel genes that originated by overprinting. Evaluation of the rates of synonymous and non-synonymous substitution yielded evidence for overlapping genes under positive selection in one frame and purifying selection in the alternative frame.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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