Next Article in Journal
Antiviral Activity of 4'-thioIDU and Thymidine Analogs against Orthopoxviruses
Next Article in Special Issue
Towards Viral Genome Annotation Standards, Report from the 2010 NCBI Annotation Workshop
Previous Article in Journal
Ectromelia Virus Infections of Mice as a Model to Support the Licensure of Anti-Orthopoxvirus Therapeutics
Previous Article in Special Issue
JaPaFi: A Novel Program for the Identification of Highly Conserved DNA Sequences
Article Menu

Article Versions

Export Article

Open AccessArticle
Viruses 2010, 2(9), 1933-1967;

Orthopoxvirus Genome Evolution: The Role of Gene Loss

Department of Microbiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, BBRB 276/11, 845 19th St S, Birmingham, AL 35222, USA
Stanford Genome Technology Center, Stanford University, 855 California Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 14 July 2010 / Revised: 25 August 2010 / Accepted: 1 September 2010 / Published: 15 September 2010
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Viral Genomics and Bioinformatics)
PDF [1902 KB, uploaded 12 May 2015]   |  


Poxviruses are highly successful pathogens, known to infect a variety of hosts. The family Poxviridae includes Variola virus, the causative agent of smallpox, which has been eradicated as a public health threat but could potentially reemerge as a bioterrorist threat. The risk scenario includes other animal poxviruses and genetically engineered manipulations of poxviruses. Studies of orthologous gene sets have established the evolutionary relationships of members within the Poxviridae family. It is not clear, however, how variations between family members arose in the past, an important issue in understanding how these viruses may vary and possibly produce future threats. Using a newly developed poxvirus-specific tool, we predicted accurate gene sets for viruses with completely sequenced genomes in the genus Orthopoxvirus. Employing sensitive sequence comparison techniques together with comparison of syntenic gene maps, we established the relationships between all viral gene sets. These techniques allowed us to unambiguously identify the gene loss/gain events that have occurred over the course of orthopoxvirus evolution. It is clear that for all existing Orthopoxvirus species, no individual species has acquired protein-coding genes unique to that species. All existing species contain genes that are all present in members of the species Cowpox virus and that cowpox virus strains contain every gene present in any other orthopoxvirus strain. These results support a theory of reductive evolution in which the reduction in size of the core gene set of a putative ancestral virus played a critical role in speciation and confining any newly emerging virus species to a particular environmental (host or tissue) niche.
Keywords: poxviruses; orthopoxviruses; variola virus; evolution; bioinformatics poxviruses; orthopoxviruses; variola virus; evolution; bioinformatics

Graphical abstract

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

Supplementary materials


Share & Cite This Article

MDPI and ACS Style

Hendrickson, R.C.; Wang, C.; Hatcher, E.L.; Lefkowitz, E.J. Orthopoxvirus Genome Evolution: The Role of Gene Loss. Viruses 2010, 2, 1933-1967.

Show more citation formats Show less citations formats

Related Articles

Article Metrics

Article Access Statistics



[Return to top]
Viruses EISSN 1999-4915 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
Back to Top