Functional Genomic Analyses Reveal an Open Pan-genome for the Chloroviruses and a Potential for Genetic Innovation in New Isolates

Rodrigo A.L. Rodrigues, Victória F. Queiroz, Jayadri Ghosh, David D. Dunigan, James L. van Etten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Chloroviruses (family Phycodnaviridae) are large double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) viruses that infect unicellular green algae present in inland waters. These viruses have been isolated using three main chlorella-like green algal host cells, traditionally called NC64A, SAG, and Pbi, revealing extensive genetic diversity. In this study, we performed a functional genomic analysis on 36 chloroviruses that infected the three different hosts. Phylogenetic reconstruction based on the DNA polymerase B family gene clustered the chloroviruses into three distinct clades. The viral pan-genome consists of 1,345 clusters of orthologous groups of genes (COGs), with 126 COGs conserved in all viruses. Totals of 368, 268, and 265 COGs are found exclusively in viruses that infect NC64A, SAG, and Pbi algal hosts, respectively. Two-thirds of the COGs have no known function, constituting the “dark pan-genome” of chloroviruses, and further studies focusing on these genes may identify important novelties. The proportions of functionally characterized COGs composing the pan-genome and the core-genome are similar, but those related to transcription and RNA processing, protein metabolism, and virion morphogenesis are at least 4-fold more represented in the core genome. Bipartite network construction evidencing the COG sharing among host-specific viruses identified 270 COGs shared by at least one virus from each of the different host groups. Finally, our results reveal an open pan-genome for chloroviruses and a well-established core genome, indicating that the isolation of new chloroviruses can be a valuable source of genetic discovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01367-21
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Chloroviruses
  • Evolution
  • Genomics
  • Pan-genome
  • Phycodnaviridae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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