The Investigation of Promoter Sequences of Marseilleviruses Highlights a Remarkable Abundance of the AAATATTT Motif in Intergenic Regions.J Virol. 2017 11 01; 91(21)JV
Viruses display a wide range of genomic profiles and, consequently, a variety of gene expression strategies. Specific sequences associated with transcriptional processes have been described in viruses, and putative promoter motifs have been elucidated for some nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses (NCLDV). Among NCLDV, the Marseilleviridae is a well-recognized family because of its genomic mosaicism. The marseilleviruses have an ability to incorporate foreign genes, especially from sympatric organisms inhabiting Acanthamoeba, its main known host. Here, we identified for the first time an eight-nucleotide A/T-rich promoter sequence (AAATATTT) associated with 55% of marseillevirus genes that is conserved in all marseilleviruses lineages, a higher level of conservation than that of any giant virus described to date. We instigated our prediction about the promoter motif by biological assays and by evaluating how single mutations in this octamer can impact gene expression. The investigation of sequences that regulate the expression of genes relative to lateral transfer revealed that the promoter motifs do not appear to be incorporated by marseilleviruses from donor organisms. Indeed, analyses of the intergenic regions that regulate lateral gene transfer-related genes have revealed an independent origin of the marseillevirus intergenic regions that does not match gene-donor organisms. About 50% of AAATATTT motifs spread throughout intergenic regions of the marseilleviruses are present as multiple copies. We believe that such multiple motifs are associated with increased expression of a given gene or are related to incorporation of foreign genes into the mosaic genome of marseilleviruses.IMPORTANCE The marseilleviruses draw attention because of the peculiar features of their genomes; however, little is known about their gene expression patterns or the factors that regulate those expression patterns. The limited published research on the expression patterns of the marseilleviruses and their unique genomes has led us to study the promoter motif sequences in the intergenic regions of the marseilleviruses. This work is the first to analyze promoter sequences in the genomes of the marseilleviruses. We also suggest a strong capacity to acquire foreign genes and to express those genes mediated by multiple copies of the promoter motifs available in intergenic regions. These findings contribute to an understanding of genomic expansion and plasticity observed in these giant viruses.