Viruses infecting marine picoplancton encode functional potassium ion channels

Fenja Siotto, Corinna Martin, Oliver Rauh, James L. Van Etten, Indra Schroeder, Anna Moroni, Gerhard Thiel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Phycodnaviruses are dsDNA viruses, which infect algae. Their large genomes encode many gene products, like small K+ channels, with homologs in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Screening for K+ channels revealed their abundance in viruses from fresh-water habitats. Recent sequencing of viruses from marine algae or from salt water in Antarctica revealed sequences with the predicted characteristics of K+ channels but with some unexpected features. Two genes encode either 78 or 79 amino acid proteins, which are the smallest known K+ channels. Also of interest is an unusual sequence in the canonical α-helixes in K+ channels. Structural prediction algorithms indicate that the new channels have the conserved α-helix folds but the algorithms failed to identify the expected transmembrane domains flanking the K+ channel pores. In spite of these unexpected properties electophysiological studies confirmed that the new proteins are functional K+ channels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-111
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014


  • Algal viruses
  • Chlorella viruses
  • K channel evolution
  • Kcv
  • Virus evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology


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