Virus-host coevolution: Common patterns of nucleotide motif usage in Flaviviridae and their hosts

Francisco P. Lobo, Bruno E.F. Mota, Sérgio D.J. Pena, Vasco Azevedo, Andréa M. Macedo, Andreas Tauch, Carlos R. Machado, Glória R. Franco

Research output: Articles / NotesScientific Articlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


Virus-host biological interaction is a continuous coevolutionary process involving both host immune system and viral escape mechanisms. Flaviviridae family is composed of fast evolving RNA viruses that infects vertebrate (mammals and birds) and/or invertebrate (ticks and mosquitoes) organisms. These host groups are very distinct life forms separated by a long evolutionary time, so lineage-specific anti-viral mechanisms are likely to have evolved. Flaviviridae viruses which infect a single host lineage would be subjected to specific host-induced pressures and, therefore, selected by them. In this work we compare the genomic evolutionary patterns of Flaviviridae viruses and their hosts in an attempt to uncover coevolutionary processes inducing common features in such disparate groups. Especially, we have analyzed dinucleotide and codon usage patterns in the coding regions of vertebrate and invertebrate organisms as well as in Flaviviridae viruses which specifically infect one or both host types. The two host groups possess very distinctive dinucleotide and codon usage patterns. A pronounced CpG under-representation was found in the vertebrate group, possibly induced by the methylation- deamination process, as well as a prominent TpA decrease. The invertebrate group displayed only a TpA frequency reduction bias. Flaviviridae viruses mimicked host nucleotide motif usage in a host-specific manner. Vertebrate-infecting viruses possessed under-representation of CpG and TpA, and insect-only viruses displayed only a TpA under-representation bias. Single-host Flaviviridae members which persistently infect mammals or insect hosts (Hepacivirus and insect-only Flavivirus, respectively) were found to posses a codon usage profile more similar to that of their hosts than to related Flaviviridae. We demonstrated that vertebrates and mosquitoes genomes are under very distinct lineage-specific constraints, and Flaviviridae viruses which specifically infect these lineages appear to be subject to the same evolutionary pressures that shaped their host coding regions, evidencing the lineage-specific coevolutionary processes between the viral and host groups.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere6282
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
StatePublished - 20 Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


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