Comparative analysis of the mosaic genomes of tailed archaeal viruses and proviruses suggests common themes for virion architecture and assembly with tailed viruses of bacteria

J Mol Biol. 2010 Mar 19;397(1):144-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2010.01.037. Epub 2010 Jan 25.


Tailed double-stranded DNA viruses (order Caudovirales) represent the dominant morphotype among viruses infecting bacteria. Analysis and comparison of complete genome sequences of tailed bacterial viruses provided insights into their origin and evolution. Structural and genomic studies have unexpectedly revealed that tailed bacterial viruses are evolutionarily related to eukaryotic herpesviruses. Organisms from the third domain of life, Archaea, are also infected by viruses that, in their overall morphology, resemble tailed viruses of bacteria. However, high-resolution structural information is currently unavailable for any of these viruses, and only a few complete genomes have been sequenced so far. Here we identified nine proviruses that are clearly related to tailed bacterial viruses and integrated into chromosomes of species belonging to four different taxonomic orders of the Archaea. This more than doubled the number of genome sequences available for comparative studies. Our analyses indicate that highly mosaic tailed archaeal virus genomes evolve by homologous and illegitimate recombination with genomes of other viruses, by diversification, and by acquisition of cellular genes. Comparative genomics of these viruses and related proviruses revealed a set of conserved genes encoding putative proteins similar to virion assembly and maturation, as well as genome packaging proteins of tailed bacterial viruses and herpesviruses. Furthermore, fold prediction and structural modeling experiments suggest that the major capsid proteins of tailed archaeal viruses adopt the same topology as the corresponding proteins of tailed bacterial viruses and eukaryotic herpesviruses. Data presented in this study strongly support the hypothesis that tailed viruses infecting archaea share a common ancestry with tailed bacterial viruses and herpesviruses.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Archaea / genetics*
  • Archaea / virology*
  • Archaeal Viruses / genetics*
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / virology
  • Capsid Proteins / chemistry
  • Capsid Proteins / genetics
  • Chromosomes / genetics
  • Chromosomes / virology
  • Genes, Viral / genetics
  • Genome, Viral / genetics*
  • Proviruses / genetics*
  • Structural Homology, Protein
  • Viral Structural Proteins / genetics
  • Virion / genetics*
  • Virus Integration / genetics


  • Capsid Proteins
  • Viral Structural Proteins