Phylogeny, genome evolution, and host specificity of single-stranded RNA bacteriophage (family Leviviridae).
Bacteriophage of the family Leviviridae have played an important role in molecular biology where representative species, such as Q beta and MS2, have been studied as model systems for replication, translation, and the role of secondary structure in gene regulation. Using nucleotide sequences from the coat and replicase genes we present the first statistical estimate of phylogeny for the family Leviviridae using maximum-likelihood and Bayesian estimation. Our analyses reveal that the coliphage species are a monophyletic group consisting of two clades representing the genera Levivirus and Allolevivirus. The Pseudomonas species PP7 diverged from its common ancestor with the coliphage prior to the ancient split between these genera and their subsequent diversification. Differences in genome size, gene composition, and gene expression are shown with a high probability to have changed along the lineage leading to the Allolevivirus through gene expansion. The change in genome size of the Allolevivirus ancestor may have catalyzed subsequent changes that led to their current genome organization and gene expression.