Origin of giant viruses from smaller DNA viruses not from a fourth domain of cellular life.Virology. 2014 Oct; 466-467:38-52.V
The numerous and diverse eukaryotic viruses with large double-stranded DNA genomes that at least partially reproduce in the cytoplasm of infected cells apparently evolved from a single virus ancestor. This major group of viruses is known as Nucleocytoplasmic Large DNA Viruses (NCLDV) or the proposed order Megavirales. Among the "Megavirales", there are three groups of giant viruses with genomes exceeding 500kb, namely Mimiviruses, Pithoviruses, and Pandoraviruses that hold the current record of viral genome size, about 2.5Mb. Phylogenetic analysis of conserved, ancestral NLCDV genes clearly shows that these three groups of giant viruses have three distinct origins within the "Megavirales". The Mimiviruses constitute a distinct family that is distantly related to Phycodnaviridae, Pandoraviruses originate from a common ancestor with Coccolithoviruses within the Phycodnaviridae family, and Pithoviruses are related to Iridoviridae and Marseilleviridae. Maximum likelihood reconstruction of gene gain and loss events during the evolution of the "Megavirales" indicates that each group of giant viruses evolved from viruses with substantially smaller and simpler gene repertoires. Initial phylogenetic analysis of universal genes, such as translation system components, encoded by some giant viruses, in particular Mimiviruses, has led to the hypothesis that giant viruses descend from a fourth, probably extinct domain of cellular life. The results of our comprehensive phylogenomic analysis of giant viruses refute the fourth domain hypothesis and instead indicate that the universal genes have been independently acquired by different giant viruses from their eukaryotic hosts.