Polintons: a hotbed of eukaryotic virus, transposon and plasmid evolution

Abstract

Polintons (also known as Mavericks) are large DNA transposons that are widespread in the genomes of eukaryotes. We have recently shown that Polintons encode virus capsid proteins, which suggests that these transposons might form virions, at least under some conditions. In this Opinion article, we delineate the evolutionary relationships among bacterial tectiviruses, Polintons, adenoviruses, virophages, large and giant DNA viruses of eukaryotes of the proposed order 'Megavirales', and linear mitochondrial and cytoplasmic plasmids. We hypothesize that Polintons were the first group of eukaryotic double-stranded DNA viruses to evolve from bacteriophages and that they gave rise to most large DNA viruses of eukaryotes and various other selfish genetic elements.

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Figure 1: Evolutionary relationships between Polintons and other mobile genetic elements.
Figure 2: Structural features of some viruses with double jelly-roll major capsid proteins.
Figure 3: Phylogenetic analysis of protein-primed type B DNA polymerases from mobile elements in archaea, bacteria and eukaryotes.
Figure 4: A hypothetical scenario for the evolution of various eukaryotic viruses and plasmids.

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Acknowledgements

E.V.K. is supported by the intramural funds of the US Department of Health and Human Services (to the National Library of Medicine).

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Correspondence to Mart Krupovic or Eugene V. Koonin.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary information S1 (figure)

Multiple sequence alignment of the putative penton proteins of polintoviruses with uncharacterized proteins of phycodnaviruses. (PDF 136 kb)

Supplementary information S2 (figure)

Relationship between the ATPases of the Polintovirus 2 from Alligator mississippiensis (P2_AMi) and human adenovirus 4. (PDF 152 kb)

Supplementary information S3 (figure)

Phylogenetic analysis of pPolBs from prokaryotic and eukaryotic mobile elements. (PDF 167 kb)

Supplementary information S4 (table)

Key polinton proteins with homologs in Reticulomyxa filosa. (PDF 129 kb)

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Krupovic, M., Koonin, E. Polintons: a hotbed of eukaryotic virus, transposon and plasmid evolution. Nat Rev Microbiol 13, 105–115 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrmicro3389

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