Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 33926956
Link to DOI – 10.1126/science.abe6542
Science 2021 04; 372(6541): 520-524
Bacteriophage genomes harbor the broadest chemical diversity of nucleobases across all life forms. Certain DNA viruses that infect hosts as diverse as cyanobacteria, proteobacteria, and actinobacteria exhibit wholesale substitution of aminoadenine for adenine, thereby forming three hydrogen bonds with thymine and violating Watson-Crick pairing rules. Aminoadenine-encoded DNA polymerases, homologous to the Klenow fragment of bacterial DNA polymerase I that includes 3′-exonuclease but lacks 5′-exonuclease, were found to preferentially select for aminoadenine instead of adenine in deoxynucleoside triphosphate incorporation templated by thymine. Polymerase genes occur in synteny with genes for a biosynthesis enzyme that produces aminoadenine deoxynucleotides in a wide array of Siphoviridae bacteriophages. Congruent phylogenetic clustering of the polymerases and biosynthesis enzymes suggests that aminoadenine has propagated in DNA alongside adenine since archaic stages of evolution.