Sequence analysis of the 330-kilobase genome of the virus PBCV-1 that infects a chlorella-like green algae revealed an open reading frame, A98R, with similarity to several hyaluronan synthases. Hyaluronan is an essential polysaccharide found in higher animals as well as in a few pathogenic bacteria. Expression of the A98R gene product in Escherichia coli indicated that the recombinant protein is an authentic hyaluronan synthase. A98R is expressed early in PBCV-1 infection and hyaluronan is produced in infected algae. These results demonstrate that a virus can encode an enzyme capable of synthesizing a carbohydrate polymer and that hyaluronan exists outside of animals and their pathogens.
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