Using purine skews to predict genes in AT-rich poxviruses




Da Silva, Melissa
Upton, Chris

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BioMed Central


Background: Clusters or runs of purines on the mRNA synonymous strand have been found in many different organisms including orthopoxviruses. The purine bias that is exhibited by these clusters can be observed using a purine skew and in the case of poxviruses, these skews can be used to help determine the coding strand of a particular segment of the genome. Combined with previous findings that minor ORFs have lower than average aspartate and glutamate composition and higher than average serine composition, purine content can be used to predict the likelihood of a poxvirus ORF being a "real gene". Results: Using purine skews and a "quality" measure designed to incorporate previous findings about minor ORFs, we have found that in our training case (vaccinia virus strain Copenhagen), 59 of 65 minor (small and unlikely to be a real genes) ORFs were correctly classified as being minor. Of the 201 major (large and likely to be real genes) vaccinia ORFs, 192 were correctly classified as being major. Performing a similar analysis with the entomopoxvirus amsacta moorei (AMEV), it was found that 4 major ORFs were incorrectly classified as minor and 9 minor ORFs were incorrectly classified as major. The purine abundance observed for major ORFs in vaccinia virus was found to stem primarily from the first codon position with both the second and third codon positions containing roughly equal amounts of purines and pyrimidines. Conclusion: Purine skews and a "quality" measure can be used to predict functional ORFs and purine skews in particular can be used to determine which of two overlapping ORFs is most likely to be the real gene if neither of the two ORFs has orthologs in other poxviruses.


BioMed Central



DaSilva and Upton. Using purine skews to predict genes in AT-rich poxviruses. BMC Genomics 2005, 6:22