The Unexplored Diversity of Pleolipoviruses: The Surprising Case of Two Viruses With Identical Major Structural Modules

Genes (Basel). 2018 Feb 28;9(3):131. doi: 10.3390/genes9030131.


Extremely halophilic Archaea are the only known hosts for pleolipoviruses which are pleomorphic non-lytic viruses resembling cellular membrane vesicles. Recently, pleolipoviruses have been acknowledged by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) as the first virus family that contains related viruses with different DNA genomes. Genomic diversity of pleolipoviruses includes single-stranded and double-stranded DNA molecules and their combinations as linear or circular molecules. To date, only eight viruses belong to the family Pleolipoviridae. In order to obtain more information about the diversity of pleolipoviruses, further isolates are needed. Here we describe the characterization of a new halophilic virus isolate, Haloarcula hispanica pleomorphic virus 4 (HHPV4). All pleolipoviruses and related proviruses contain a conserved core of approximately five genes designating this virus family, but the sequence similarity among different isolates is low. We demonstrate that over half of HHPV4 genome is identical to the genome of pleomorphic virus HHPV3. The genomic regions encoding known virion components are identical between the two viruses, but HHPV4 includes unique genetic elements, e.g., a putative integrase gene. The co-evolution of these two viruses demonstrates the presence of high recombination frequency in halophilic microbiota and can provide new insights considering links between viruses, membrane vesicles, and plasmids.

Keywords: Pleolipoviridae; genomic diversity; haloarchaeal virus; hypersaline environment; pleolipovirus; pleomorphic virus.