The ancient evolutionary history of polyomaviruses

Author Summary: Polyomaviruses are a family of DNA-based viruses that are known to infect various terrestrial vertebrates, including humans. In this report, we describe our discovery of highly divergent polyomaviruses associated with various marine fish. Searches of public deep sequencing databases unexpectedly revealed the existence of polyomavirus-like sequences in scorpion and spider datasets. Our analysis of these new sequences suggests that polyomaviruses have slowly co-evolved with individual host animal lineages through an established mechanism known as intrahost divergence. The proposed model is similar to the mechanisms through with other DNA viruses, such as papillomaviruses, are thought to have evolved. Our analysis also suggests that distantly related polyomaviruses sometimes recombine to produce new chimeric lineages. We propose a possible taxonomic scheme that can account for these inferred ancient recombination events.