Lateral gene transfer of family A DNA polymerases between thermophilic viruses, aquificae, and apicomplexa

Thomas W. Schoenfeld, Senthil K. Murugapiran, Jeremy A. Dodsworth, Sally Floyd, Michael Lodes, David A. Mead, Brian P. Hedlund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations

Abstract

Bioinformatics and functional screens identified a group of Family A-type DNA Polymerase (polA) genes encoded by viruses inhabiting circumneutral and alkaline hot springs in Yellowstone National Park and the US Great Basin. The proteins encoded by these viral polA genes (PolAs) shared no significant sequence similarity with any known viral proteins but were remarkably similar to PolAs encoded by two of three families of the bacterial phylum Aquificae and by several apicoplast-targeted PolA-like proteins found in the eukaryotic phylum Apicomplexa, which includes the obligate parasites Plasmodium, Babesia, and Toxoplasma. The viral gene products share signature elements previously associated only with Aquificae and Apicomplexa PolA-like proteins and were similar to proteins encoded by prophage elements of a variety of otherwise unrelated Bacteria, each of which additionally encoded a prototypical bacterial PolA. Unique among known viral DNA polymerases, the viral PolA proteins of this study share with the Apicomplexa proteins large amino-terminal domains with putative helicase/primase elements but low primary sequence similarity. The genomic context and distribution, phylogeny, and biochemistry of these PolA proteins suggest that thermophilic viruses transferred polA genes to the Apicomplexa, likely through secondary endosymbiosis of a virus-infected proto-apicoplast, and to the common ancestor of two of three Aquificae families, where they displaced the orthologous cellular polA gene. On the basis of biochemical activity, gene structure, and sequence similarity, we speculate that the xenologous viral-type polA genes may have functions associated with diversity-generating recombination in both Bacteria and Apicomplexa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1653-1664
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Volume30
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2013

Keywords

  • Apicomplexa
  • Aquificae
  • DNA polymerase
  • horizontal gene transfer
  • replication
  • viral metagenomics

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