Virology journal 2018 04 1015(1) 67 doi 10.1186/s12985-018-0974-y
Analysis of metagenomic sequences has become the principal approach for the study of the diversity of viruses. Many recent, extensive metagenomic studies on several classes of viruses have dramatically expanded the visible part of the virosphere, showing that previously undetected viruses, or those that have been considered rare, actually are important components of the global virome.
We investigated the provenance of viruses related to tail-less bacteriophages of the family Tectiviridae by searching genomic and metagenomics sequence databases for distant homologs of the tectivirus-like Double Jelly-Roll major capsid proteins (DJR MCP). These searches resulted in the identification of numerous genomes of virus-like elements that are similar in size to tectiviruses (10-15 kilobases) and have diverse gene compositions. By comparison of the gene repertoires, the DJR MCP-encoding genomes were classified into 6 distinct groups that can be predicted to differ in reproduction strategies and host ranges. Only the DJR MCP gene that is present by design is shared by all these genomes, and most also encode a predicted DNA-packaging ATPase; the rest of the genes are present only in subgroups of this unexpectedly diverse collection of DJR MCP-encoding genomes. Only a minority encode a DNA polymerase which is a hallmark of the family Tectiviridae and the putative family "Autolykiviridae". Notably, one of the identified putative DJR MCP viruses encodes a homolog of Cas1 endonuclease, the integrase involved in CRISPR-Cas adaptation and integration of transposon-like elements called casposons. This is the first detected occurrence of Cas1 in a virus. Many of the identified elements are individual contigs flanked by inverted or direct repeats and appear to represent complete, extrachromosomal viral genomes, whereas others are flanked by bacterial genes and thus can be considered as proviruses. These contigs come from metagenomes of widely different environments, some dominated by archaea and others by bacteria, suggesting that collectively, the DJR MCP-encoding elements have a broad host range among prokaryotes.
The findings reported here greatly expand the known host range of (putative) viruses of bacteria and archaea that encode a DJR MCP. They also demonstrate the extreme diversity of genome architectures in these viruses that encode no universal proteins other than the capsid protein that was used as the marker for their identification. From a supposedly minor group of bacterial and archaeal viruses, these viruses are emerging as a substantial component of the prokaryotic virome.