The Big Bang of picorna-like virus evolution antedates the radiation of eukaryotic supergroups

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2008 Dec;6(12):925-39. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2030. Epub 2008 Nov 10.


The recent discovery of RNA viruses in diverse unicellular eukaryotes and developments in evolutionary genomics have provided the means for addressing the origin of eukaryotic RNA viruses. The phylogenetic analyses of RNA polymerases and helicases presented in this Analysis article reveal close evolutionary relationships between RNA viruses infecting hosts from the Chromalveolate and Excavate supergroups and distinct families of picorna-like viruses of plants and animals. Thus, diversification of picorna-like viruses probably occurred in a 'Big Bang' concomitant with key events of eukaryogenesis. The origins of the conserved genes of picorna-like viruses are traced to likely ancestors including bacterial group II retroelements, the family of HtrA proteases and DNA bacteriophages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Eukaryotic Cells / virology
  • Genome, Viral
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / genetics
  • Models, Biological
  • Phylogeny
  • Picornaviridae / classification*
  • Picornaviridae / enzymology
  • Picornaviridae / genetics*
  • RNA Helicases / genetics
  • RNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / genetics


  • RNA-Directed DNA Polymerase
  • RNA Helicases