Fig mosaic virus (FMV) is a multipartite negative-sense RNA virus infecting fig trees worldwide. FMV is transmitted by vegetative propagation and grafting of plant materials, and by the eriophyid mite Aceria ficus. In this work, the genetic variation and evolutionary mechanisms shaping FMV populations were characterized. Nucleotide sequences from four genomic regions (each within the genomic RNAs 1, 2, 3, and 4) from FMV isolates from different countries were determined and analyzed. FMV genetic variation was low, as is seen for many other plant viruses. Phylogenetic analysis showed some geographically distant FMV isolates which clustered together, suggesting long-distance migration. The extent of migration was limited, although varied, between countries, such that FMV populations of different countries were genetically differentiated. Analysis using several recombination algorithms suggests that genomes of some FMV isolates originated by reassortment of genomic RNAs from different genetically similar isolates. Comparison between nonsynonymous and synonymous substitutions showed selection acting on some amino acids; however, most evolved neutrally. This and neutrality tests together with the limited gene flow suggest that genetic drift plays an important role in shaping FMV populations.
Potyviruses express most of their proteins from a long open reading frame that is translated into a large polyprotein processed by three viral proteases. To understand the constraints on potyvirus genome organization, we relocated the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (NIb) cistron to all possible intercistronic positions of the Tobacco etch virus (TEV) polyprotein. Only viruses with NIb at the amino terminus of the polyprotein or in between P1 and HC-Pro were viable in tobacco plants.
Viruses have evolved highly streamlined genomes and a variety of mechanisms to compress them, suggesting that genome size is under strong selection. Horizontal gene transfer has, on the other hand, played an important role in virus evolution. However, evolution cannot integrate initially nonfunctional sequences into the viral genome if they are rapidly purged by selection. Here we report on the experimental evolution of pseudogenization in virus genomes using a plant RNA virus expressing a heterologous gene. When long 9-week passages were performed, the added gene was lost in all lineages, whereas viruses with large genomic deletions were fixed in only two out of ten 3-week lineages and none in 1-week lineages. Illumina next-generation sequencing revealed considerable convergent evolution in the 9- and 3-week lineages with genomic deletions. Genome size was correlated to within-host competitive fitness, although there was no correlation with virus accumulation or virulence. Within-host competitive fitness of the 3-week virus lineages without genomic deletions was higher than for the 1-week lineages. Our results show that the strength of selection for a reduced genome size and the rate of pseudogenization depend on demographic conditions. Moreover, for the 3-week passage condition, we observed increases in within-host fitness, whereas selection was not strong enough to quickly remove the nonfunctional heterologous gene. These results suggest a demographically determined "sweet spot" might exist, where heterologous insertions are not immediately lost while evolution can act to integrate them into the viral genome.
Citrus tristeza virus (CTV) outbreaks were detected in Sicily island, Italy for the first time in 2002. To gain insight into the evolutionary forces driving the emergence and phylogeography of these CTV populations, we determined and analyzed the nucleotide sequences of the p20 gene from 108 CTV isolates collected from 2002 to 2009. Bayesian phylogenetic analysis revealed that mild and severe CTV isolates belonging to five different clades (lineages) were introduced in Sicily in 2002. Phylogeographic analysis showed that four lineages co-circulated in the main citrus growing area located in Eastern Sicily. However, only one lineage (composed of mild isolates) spread to distant areas of Sicily and was detected after 2007. No correlation was found between genetic variation and citrus host, indicating that citrus cultivars did not exert differential selective pressures on the virus. The genetic variation of CTV was not structured according to geographical location or sampling time, likely due to the multiple introduction events and a complex migration pattern with intense co- and re-circulation of different lineages in the same area. The phylogenetic structure, statistical tests of neutrality and comparison of synonymous and nonsynonymous substitution rates suggest that weak negative selection and genetic drift following a rapid expansion may be the main causes of the CTV variability observed today in Sicily. Nonetheless, three adjacent amino acids at the p20 N-terminal region were found to be under positive selection, likely resulting from adaptation events.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) represents the most common genital malignant tumor in horses. Similar to humans, papillomaviruses (PVs) have been proposed as etiological agents and recently Equine papillomavirus type 2 (EcPV2) has been identified in a subset of genital SCCs. The goals of this study were (1) to determine the prevalence of EcPV2 DNA in tissue samples from equine genital SCCs, penile intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN) and penile papillomas, using EcPV2-specific PCR, (2) to examine the prevalence of latent EcPV2 infection in healthy genital mucosa and (3) to determine genetic variability within EcPV2 and to disentangle phylogenetic relationships of EcPV2 among PVs. EcPV2 DNA was detected in all but one penile SCC (15/16), in all PIN lesions (8/8) and penile papillomas (4/4). Additionally, EcPV2 DNA was demonstrated in one of two metastasized lymph nodes, one contact metastasis in the mouth, two vaginal and one anal lesion. In healthy horses, EcPV2 DNA was detected in 10% (4/39) of penile swabs but in none of vulvovaginal swabs (0/20). This study confirms the presence of EcPV2 DNA in equine genital SCCs and shows its involvement in anal lesions, a lymph node and contact metastases. Latent EcPV2 presence was also shown in normal male genital mucosa. We found that different EcPV2 variants cocirculate among horses and that EcPV2 is related to the Delta+Zeta PVs and is only a very distant relative of high-risk human PVs causing genital cancer. Thus, similar viral tropism and similar malignant outcome of the infection do not imply close evolutionary relationship.
The APOBEC3 (A3) genes play a key role in innate antiviral defense in mammals by introducing directed mutations in the DNA. The human genome encodes for seven A3 genes, with multiple splice alternatives. Different A3 proteins display different substrate specificity, but the very basic question on how discerning self from non-self still remains unresolved. Further, the expression of A3 activity/ies shapes the way both viral and host genomes evolve.
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