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Defensive hypervariable regions confer superinfection exclusion in microviruses

Cite this dataset

Kirchberger, Paul (2021). Defensive hypervariable regions confer superinfection exclusion in microviruses [Dataset]. Dryad.


Single-stranded DNA phages of the family Microviridae have fundamentally different evolutionary origins and dynamics than the more frequently studied double-stranded DNA phages. Despite their small size (generally <5kb), which imposes extreme constraints on genomic innovation, they have adapted to become prominent members of viromes in numerous ecosystems and hold a dominant position among viruses in the human gut. We show that multiple, divergent lineages in the family Microviridae have independently become capable of lysogenizing hosts and have convergently developed hypervariable regions in their DNA pilot protein, which is responsible for injecting the phage genome into the host. By creating microviruses with combinations of genomic segments from different phages and infecting Escherichia coli as a model system, we demonstrate that this hypervariable region confers the ability of temperate Microviridae to prevent DNA injection and infection by other microviruses. The DNA pilot protein is present all microviruses but has been recruited repeatedly into this additional role as microviruses altered their lifestyle by evolving the ability to integrate in bacterial genomes, which linked their survival to that of their hosts. Our results emphasize that competition between viruses is a considerable and often overlooked source of selective pressure, and by producing similar evolutionary outcomes in distinct lineages, it underlies the prevalence of hypervariable regions in the genomes of microviruses and perhaps beyond.


This dataset ccontains protein and DNA alignments of microviral DNA pilot proteins and whole genomes used to generate figures in this work.