MutS proteins are ubiquitous in cellular organisms and have important roles in DNA mismatch repair or recombination. In the virus world, the amoeba-infecting Mimivirus, as well as the recently sequenced Cafeteria roenbergensis virus are known to encode a MutS related to the homologs found in octocorals and-proteobacteria. To explore the presence of MutS proteins in other viral genomes, we performed a genomic survey of four giant viruses ('giruses') (Pyramimonas orientalis virus (PoV), Phaeocystis pouchetii virus (PpV), Chrysochromulina ericina virus (CeV) and Heterocapsa circularisquama DNA virus (HcDNAV)) that infect unicellular marine algae. Our analysis revealed the presence of a close homolog of Mimivirus MutS in all the analyzed giruses. These viral homologs possess a specific domain structure, including a C-terminal HNH-endonuclease domain, defining the new MutS7 subfamily. We confirmed the presence of conserved mismatch recognition residues in all members of the MutS7 subfamily, suggesting their role in DNA mismatch repair rather than DNA recombination. PoV and PpV were found to contain an additional type of MutS, which we propose to call MutS8. The MutS8 proteins in PoV and PpV were found to be closely related to homologs from 'Candidatus Amoebophilus asiaticus', an obligate intracellular amoeba-symbiont belonging to the Bacteroidetes. Furthermore, our analysis revealed that MutS7 and MutS8 are abundant in marine microbial metagenomes and that a vast majority of these environmental sequences are likely of girus origin. Giruses thus seem to represent a major source of the underexplored diversity of the MutS family in the microbial world.
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