IMR Press / FBE / Special Issues / viruses_genome

The Role of Viruses in Genome Evolution and Adaptation

Submission deadline: 31 December 2022
Special Issue Editor
Ruslan Kalendar, PhD
Helsinki Institute of Life Science HiLIFE, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Interests: genomics and evolution; biology of mobile elements; applications as markers for biodiversity and breeding; identification of mobile elements; bioinformatics (string searching and complexity analysis, search of repeats, DNA alignment and assembly, PCR primer/probe design)
Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

One milliliter of seawater contains approximately 1 million bacteria, and 10 to 100 times as many viruses, as well as countless viral particles and RNA fragments. Moreover, concerning the functions of these organisms or biomolecules, in a systemic context, we know almost nothing. Although viruses can spread through the air, water, and soil they still remain functionally linked to their host organisms. They are part of the organism, but not directly related to it, in a spatial context. As phylogenetic analysis shows, practically all organisms, of all kingdoms of organisms, are infected with viruses or are densely populated by them, and this occurs from the very beginning of life. A better detailed understanding of the genomes of viruses has shown that the vast majority of their genes are not found in animals, plants, or bacteria. Approximately 90% of virus genomes do not present any relationship with known gene sequences and are thus new viruses with their own properties. This means that viruses can create their own complex genes and, for the most part, they are assembled from genetic material that largely originates in other viruses. As the oceans are full of such viruses, viruses represent a super genome with a high degree of variability. 

The recently discovered giant viruses represent a revolution in modern virology as these organisms are a transitional form between viruses and bacteria and, therefore, represent an extremely useful tool to guide our understanding of evolution. Pandoravirus are larger than many bacteria and have up to 2500 genes and the Pandoravirus genome contains a strange mixture of largely unknown nucleotide sequences. For example, 93% of Pandoravirus genes possess no homologs in current genetic databases. Horizontal gene transfer is widespread in animals and humans and gives rise to tens or hundreds of active genes and seems to have contributed to the evolution of many, perhaps all, animals. New genetic combinations always reveal the basis for innovative, adaptive, modification and developmental processes. Human health is also critically dependent on the diversity of bacteria in our gut and adaptation, evolution, and health are each driven by genetic variation. All gene physiology, genetic recombination, translation, transcription, and transposition, as conserved within the eukaryotic cell, were originally viral processes. Thus, viruses are, genetically, one of the decisive factors in evolutionary innovation and species diversity as such diversity is always an indicator of vital and healthy ecosystems.

Our best regards, 
Prof. Dr. Ruslan Kalendar
Guest Editor

giant virus
endogenous retroviruses
transposable elements
genome evolution
horizontal gene transfer
Manuscript Submission Information

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