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Evolution of the DUT Gene: Horizontal Transfer between Host and Pathogen in all Three Domains of Life

[ Vol. 2 , Issue. 4 ]


Marcella A. McClure   Pages 313 - 324 ( 12 )


The ubiquity of the dut gene in Eukarya, Eubacteria, and Archaea implies its existence in the last common ancestor of the three domains of life. The dut gene exists as single, tandemly duplicated, and tandemly triplicated copies. The dUTPase is encoded as an auxiliary gene in the genomes of several DNA viruses and two distinct lineages of retroviruses. A comprehensive analysis of dUTPase amino acid sequence relationships explores the evolutionary dynamics of dut genes in viruses and their hosts. The data set was comprised of representative sequences from available Eukaryotes, Archaea, Eubacteria cells and viruses. A multiple alignment of these protein sequences was generated using a hidden Markov model (HMM) approach developed to align divergent data. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that horizontal transfer from hosts to virus genomes has occurred in all three domains of life. The evidence for horizontal transfers is particularly interesting in Eukaryotes as these dut genes have introns, while DNA vir us dut genes do not. This implies an intermediary Retroid Agent facilitated the horizontal transfer process, via reverse transcription, between host mRNA and DNA viruses. The horizontal transfer of the dut gene from Eukaryotic, Eubacterial, and Archaeal organisms to both DNA and RNA viruses is the first documented case of host to pathogen transfer that has occurred in all three domains of life.


DUT Gene, horizontal gene transfer (HGT)


Department of Microbiology, The Center for Computational Biology, Montana State University, 109 Lewis Hall, Bozeman, MT 59717, USA

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