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Res Microbiol. 2008 Jun;159(5):325-31. doi: 10.1016/j.resmic.2008.04.012. Epub 2008 May 10.

Convergent mechanisms of genome evolution of large and giant DNA viruses.

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Laboratoire Evolution, Génomes et Spéciation, CNRS UPR 9034, Avenue de la Terrasse, 91198 Gif sur Yvette Cedex, France.


We have taken advantage of the availability of the genome sequences of a collection of large and giant viruses infecting bacteria (T4 family) and eukaryotes (NCLDV group) to assess some of the evolutionary forces which might have shaped their genomes. Despite having apparently different ancestors, these two groups of viruses are affected by convergent evolutionary forces. Both types of virus probably originated from a simple and ancient viral ancestor with a small subset of 30-35 genes encoding replication and structural proteins. The genome size and diversity of the descendants most likely grew progressively by (i) lineage-specific gene duplications, (ii) lateral gene transfers of cellular genes and (iii) accretion of diverse families of mobile genetic elements. These results argue against the hypothesis that giant viruses derive from a regressive cell.

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