Panspermia: An early cellular origin of viruses

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The data-driven studies of origin of viruses are challenging. Traditional alignment-dependent methods may be ill suited to study virus origins. Over long evolutionary timescales, DNA substitutions may completely erase the evolutionary signal, especially in the case of fastevolving RNA and retro-transcribing viruses. Other complications such as limited choice of orthologous gene markers conserved across a broad range of organisms further complicate the recovery of a reliable alignment to use for evolutionary inferences. Under such circumstances, it can be better to focus on characters that are better conserved in evolution (such as protein structures) or to explore other alignmentindependent alternatives. Here we share our experience of using alternative molecular and morphological characters to study virus origins and evolution. We discuss how our phylogenomic data-driven insights agree with an early cellular origin of viruses and strongly refute the classical perceptions about viruses as mere byproducts of cellular evolution. We also propose a phylogenomic-data inspired model of virus origination that transforms primordial vesicles of horizontal genetic exchange into full-fledge viruses capable of establishing complex virus-host life cycles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationUntangling Molecular Biodiversity
Subtitle of host publicationExplaining Unity And Diversity Principles Of Organization With Molecular Structure And Evolutionary Genomics
EditorsGustavo Caetano-Anollés
PublisherWorld Scientific
Number of pages32
ISBN (Electronic)9789814656627
ISBN (Print)9789814656610
StatePublished - Dec 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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