The combinatorial nature of genetic recombination can potentially provide organisms with immediate access to many more positions in sequence space than can be reached by mutation alone. Recombination features particularly prominently in the evolution of a diverse range of viruses. Despite rapid progress having been made in the characterization of discrete recombination events for many species, little is currently known about either gross patterns of recombination across related virus families or the underlying processes that determine genome-wide recombination breakpoint distributions observable in nature. It has been hypothesized that the networks of coevolved molecular interactions that define the epistatic architectures of virus genomes might be damaged by recombination and therefore that selection strongly influences observable recombination patterns. For recombinants to thrive in nature, it is probably important that the portions of their genomes that they have inherited from different parents work well together. Here we describe a comparative analysis of recombination breakpoint distributions within the genomes of diverse single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) virus families. We show that whereas nonrandom breakpoint distributions in ssDNA virus genomes are partially attributable to mechanistic aspects of the recombination process, there is also a significant tendency for recombination breakpoints to fall either outside or on the peripheries of genes. In particular, we found significantly fewer recombination breakpoints within structural protein genes than within other gene types. Collectively, these results imply that natural selection acting against viruses expressing recombinant proteins is a major determinant of nonrandom recombination breakpoint distributions observable in most ssDNA virus families.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science