Germline viral "fossils" guide in silico Ereconstruction of a mid-Cenozoic era marsupial adeno-associated virus Academic Article uri icon


  • Germline endogenous viral elements (EVEs) genetically preserve viral nucleotide sequences useful to the study of viral evolution, gene mutation, and the phylogenetic relationships among host organisms. Here, we describe a lineage-specific, adeno-associated virus (AAV)-derived endogenous viral element (mAAV-EVE1) found within the germline of numerous closely related marsupial species. Molecular screening of a marsupial DNA panel indicated that mAAV-EVE1 occurs specifically within the marsupial suborder Macropodiformes (present-day kangaroos, wallabies, and related macropodoids), to the exclusion of other Diprotodontian lineages. Orthologous mAAV-EVE1 locus sequences from sixteen macropodoid species, representing a speciation history spanning an estimated 30 million years, facilitated compilation of an inferred ancestral sequence that recapitulates the genome of an ancient marsupial AAV that circulated among Australian metatherian fauna sometime during the late Eocene to early Oligocene. In silico gene reconstruction and molecular modelling indicate remarkable conservation of viral structure over a geologic timescale. Characterisation of AAV-EVE loci among disparate species affords insight into AAV evolution and, in the case of macropodoid species, may offer an additional genetic basis for assignment of phylogenetic relationships among the Macropodoidea. From an applied perspective, the identified AAV "fossils" provide novel capsid sequences for use in translational research and clinical applications.


  • Smith, RH
  • Hallwirth, CV
  • Westerman, Michael
  • Hetherington, NA
  • Tseng, Y-S
  • Cecchini, S
  • Virag, T
  • Ziegler, M-L
  • Rogozin, IB
  • Koonin, EV
  • Agbandje-McKenna, M
  • Kotin, RM
  • Alexander, IE

publication date

  • 2016