Geminiviruses encode a replication initiator protein, Rep, which binds in a sequence-specific fashion to iterated DNA motifs (iterons) functioning as essential elements for virus-specific replication. By using the iterons of more than one hundred geminiviruses as heuristic devices, we have identified a Rep subdomain 8 to 10 residues in length, whose primary structure varies among viruses harboring different iterons, but which is similar among viruses with identical iterons, regardless of their differences in host range, insect vector, geographical origin or genome structure. Close analysis of this iteron-related domain (IRD) revealed consistent correlations between specific Rep residues and defined nucleotides of its cognate iteron, thus providing important insights about the molecular code which dictates the Rep preference for specific DNA sequences. A model of potential Rep-iteron contacts is proposed. The identified IRD is adjacent to a conserved motif characteristic of a superfamily of rolling-circle (RC) replication proteins, and secondary structure predictions suggest that those Rep subdomains form together the core of a novel DNA-binding domain possessing a β-sheet as recognition subdomain, which is apparently conserved in the replication proteins of nanoviruses, circoviruses, microviruses, and a variety of ssDNA plasmids of eubacteria, archaebacteria and red algae. The evolutionary implications of these findings are discussed.
Archives of Virology – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 1, 2001
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