Evolution of the dUTPase gene of mammalian and avian herpesviruses

John McGeehan, N. Depledge, D. McGeoch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sequences of dUTPases encoded by Alpha- and Gammaherpesviruses resemble other dUTPases in their possession of five conserved motifs, but differ in having greater chain lengths (about twice as long) and in the location of Motif 3 at an N terminal location relative to the other motifs. It was proposed that the herpesvirus gene arose by intragenic duplication of a standard dUTPase coding sequence and subsequent loss of one copy of each motif from the double length chain, and that the resulting enzyme was active as a monomer. With knowledge of the trimeric 3D structure of standard dUTPases, it is possible to suggest transformations that occurred in evolutionary development of the herpesvirus dUTPase. The distinct location of Motif 3 can indeed be seen to be consistent with it contributing to a single intramolecular active site with the other motifs. Separately, the occurrence in herpesvirus dUTPases of around 20 to 40 additional residues between Motifs 4 and 5 allows the C-terminal Motif 5 to reach the active site intramolecularly. The driving force behind these evolutionary changes remains obscure. We speculate that they may have allowed acquisition of a novel, presently unknown function by the protein. Consistent with this idea is the observation that in Alpha- and Gammaherpesvirus dUTPases the original locus of Motif 3 is occupied by a distinct conserved sequence (Motif 6); perhaps this element constitutes part of a separate functional capability. Notably, the apparently orthologous protein in Betaherpesviruses lacks the standard motifs while Motif 6 is still present.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-33
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Protein and Peptide Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2001


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