April 21, 2020  |  

Medusavirus, a Novel Large DNA Virus Discovered from Hot Spring Water.

Recent discoveries of new large DNA viruses reveal high diversity in their morphologies, genetic repertoires, and replication strategies. Here, we report the novel features of medusavirus, a large DNA virus newly isolated from hot spring water in Japan. Medusavirus, with a diameter of 260?nm, shows a T=277 icosahedral capsid with unique spherical-headed spikes on its surface. It has a 381-kb genome encoding 461 putative proteins, 86 of which have their closest homologs in Acanthamoeba, whereas 279 (61%) are orphan genes. The virus lacks the genes encoding DNA topoisomerase II and RNA polymerase, showing that DNA replication takes place in the host nucleus, whereas the progeny virions are assembled in the cytoplasm. Furthermore, the medusavirus genome harbored genes for all five types of histones (H1, H2A, H2B, H3, and H4) and one DNA polymerase, which are phylogenetically placed at the root of the eukaryotic clades. In contrast, the host amoeba encoded many medusavirus homologs, including the major capsid protein. These facts strongly suggested that amoebae are indeed the most promising natural hosts of medusavirus, and that lateral gene transfers have taken place repeatedly and bidirectionally between the virus and its host since the early stage of their coevolution. Medusavirus reflects the traces of direct evolutionary interactions between the virus and eukaryotic hosts, which may be caused by sharing the DNA replication compartment and by evolutionarily long lasting virus-host relationships. Based on its unique morphological characteristics and phylogenomic relationships with other known large DNA viruses, we propose that medusavirus represents a new family, MedusaviridaeIMPORTANCE We have isolated a new nucleocytoplasmic large DNA virus (NCLDV) from hot spring water in Japan, named medusavirus. This new NCLDV is phylogenetically placed at the root of the eukaryotic clades based on the phylogenies of several key genes, including that encoding DNA polymerase, and its genome surprisingly encodes the full set of histone homologs. Furthermore, its laboratory host, Acanthamoeba castellanii, encodes many medusavirus homologs in its genome, including the major capsid protein, suggesting that the amoeba is the genuine natural host from ancient times of this newly described virus and that lateral gene transfers have repeatedly occurred between the virus and amoeba. These results suggest that medusavirus is a unique NCLDV preserving ancient footprints of evolutionary interactions with its hosts, thus providing clues to elucidate the evolution of NCLDVs, eukaryotes, and virus-host interaction. Based on the dissimilarities with other known NCLDVs, we propose that medusavirus represents a new viral family, Medusaviridae.Copyright © 2019 Yoshikawa et al.


April 21, 2020  |  

Wild relatives of maize

Crop domestication changed the course of human evolution, and domestication of maize (Zea mays L. subspecies mays), today the world’s most important crop, enabled civilizations to flourish and has played a major role in shaping the world we know today. Archaeological and ethnobotanical research help us understand the development of the cultures and the movements of the peoples who carried maize to new areas where it continued to adapt. Ancient remains of maize cobs and kernels have been found in the place of domestication, the Balsas River Valley (~9,000 years before present era), and the cultivation center, the Tehuacan Valley (~5,000 years before present era), and have been used to study the process of domestication. Paleogenomic data showed that some of the genes controlling the stem and inflorescence architecture were comparable to modern maize, while other genes controlling ear shattering and starch biosynthesis retain high levels of variability, similar to those found in the wild relative teosinte. These results indicate that the domestication process was both gradual and complex, where different genetic loci were selected at different points in time, and that the transformation of teosinte to maize was completed in the last 5,000 years. Mesoamerican native cultures domesticated teosinte and developed maize from a 6 cm long, popping-kernel ear to what we now recognize as modern maize with its wide variety in ear size, kernel texture, color, size, and adequacy for diverse uses and also invented nixtamalization, a process key to maximizing its nutrition. Used directly for human and animal consumption, processed food products, bioenergy, and many cultural applications, it is now grown on six of the world’s seven continents. The study of its evolution and domestication from the wild grass teosinte helps us understand the nature of genetic diversity of maize and its wild relatives and gene expression. Genetic barriers to direct use of teosinte or Tripsacum in maize breeding have challenged our ability to identify valuable genes and traits, let alone incorporate them into elite, modern varieties. Genomic information and newer genetic technologies will facilitate the use of wild relatives in crop improvement; hence it is more important than ever to ensure their conservation and availability, fundamental to future food security. In situ conservation efforts dedicated to preserving remnant populations of wild relatives in Mexico are key to safeguarding the genetic diversity of maize and its genepool, as well as enabling these species to continue to adapt to dynamic climate and environmental changes. Genebank ex situ efforts are crucial to securely maintain collected wild relative resources and to provide them for gene discovery and other research efforts.


Talk with an expert

If you have a question, need to check the status of an order, or are interested in purchasing an instrument, we're here to help.