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The evolution, distribution and diversity of endogenous circoviral elements

By Tristan P.W Dennis, William Marciel Souza, Soledad Marsile-Medun, Joshua B Singer, Sam J Wilson, Robert J Gifford

Posted 16 Jan 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/207399 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.virusres.2018.03.014)

Circoviruses (family Circoviridae) are small, non-enveloped viruses that have short, single-stranded DNA genomes. Circovirus sequences are frequently recovered in metagenomic investigations, indicating that these viruses are widespread, yet they remain relatively poorly understood. Endogenous circoviral elements (CVe) are DNA sequences derived from circoviruses that occur in vertebrate genomes. CVe can provide unique, retrospective information about the biology and evolution of circoviruses. In this study, we screened 362 vertebrate genome assemblies in silico to generate a catalog of CVe loci. We identified a total of 179 CVe sequences, most of which have not been reported previously. We show that these CVe loci reflect at least 19 distinct germline integration events. We determine the structure of CVe loci, identifying some that show evidence of potential functionalization. We also identify orthologous copies of CVe in snakes, fish, birds, and mammals, allowing us to add new calibrations to the timeline of circovirus evolution. Finally, we reveal that some of these demonstrably ancient CVe group robustly with contemporary circoviruses in phylogenies, with all sequences within these groups being derived from the same host class, subclass, or order. This implies a hitherto underappreciated stability in circovirus-host relationships. The openly available dataset constructed in this investigation provides new insights into circovirus evolution, and can be used to facilitate further studies of circoviruses and CVe.

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