Defining a Core Genome for the Herpesvirales and Exploring their Evolutionary Relationship with the Caudovirales
The order Herpesvirales encompasses a wide variety of important and broadly distributed human pathogens. During the last decades, similarities in the viral cycle and the structure of some of their proteins with those of the order Caudovirales, the tailed bacterial viruses, have brought speculation regarding the existence of an evolutionary relationship between these clades. To evaluate such hypothesis, we used over 600 Herpesvirales and 2000 Caudovirales complete genomes to search for the presence or absence of clusters of orthologous protein domains and constructed a dendrogram based on their compositional similarities. The results obtained strongly suggest an evolutionary relationship between the two orders. Furthermore, they allowed to propose a core genome for the Herpesvirales, composed of 4 proteins, including the ATPase subunit of the DNA-packaging terminase, the only protein with previously verified conservation. Accordingly, a phylogenetic tree constructed with sequences derived from the clusters associated to these proteins grouped the Herpesvirales strains accordingly to the established families and subfamilies. Overall, this work provides results supporting the hypothesis that the two orders are evolutionarily related and contributes to the understanding of the history of the Herpesvirales.