Project context and summary :
The phylogenetic position and status of “giant viruses”, formerly called NucleoCytoplasmic Large DNA viruses (NCLDV) or putative order Megavirales, are controversial. Many preliminary phylogenetic analyses have been published, but their presentations are usually highly biased by the prejudice of the authors concerning the nature of giant viruses. Our own preliminary analyses suggest that giant viruses are indeed ancient (they predate the last universal eukaryotic ancestor) and have possibly provided important functions to emerging eukaryotic cells (e.g. DNA topoisomerase activities). The number of giant virus genomes has recently dramatically increased, opening new opportunity to study their position in the “universal tree of life” and their evolutionary relationships with eukaryotes. The aim of the project is to perform an exhaustive phylogenetic analysis of all giant virus proteins with eukaryotic (archaeal/bacterial) homologues to (i) test the monophyly of giant viruses, (ii) determine their contribution to early eukaryotic evolution, iii) determine if some giant virus proteins can be useful to root the eukaryotic tree. We need the help of a bioinformatics colleague with good expertise in building phylogenetic trees from large data sets using different methods of tree construction and robustness evaluation. This work will be complemented by the systematic search for significant indels (insertion/deletion) in the alignments obtained by two members of the BMGE team (Patrick Forterre and Morgan Gaia).