Viruses infecting marine picoplancton encode functional potassium ion channels.

PMID 25441713


Phycodnaviruses are dsDNA viruses, which infect algae. Their large genomes encode many gene products, like small K(+) channels, with homologs in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Screening for K(+) channels revealed their abundance in viruses from fresh-water habitats. Recent sequencing of viruses from marine algae or from salt water in Antarctica revealed sequences with the predicted characteristics of K(+) channels but with some unexpected features. Two genes encode either 78 or 79 amino acid proteins, which are the smallest known K(+) channels. Also of interest is an unusual sequence in the canonical α-helixes in K(+) channels. Structural prediction algorithms indicate that the new channels have the conserved α-helix folds but the algorithms failed to identify the expected transmembrane domains flanking the K(+) channel pores. In spite of these unexpected properties electophysiological studies confirmed that the new proteins are functional K(+) channels.

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