Taxonomic classification of archaeal and bacterial viruses is challenging, yet also fundamental for developing a predictive understanding of microbial ecosystems. Recent identification of hundreds of thousands of new viral genomes and genome fragments, whose hosts remain unknown, requires a paradigm shift away from traditional classification approaches and towards the use of genomes for taxonomy. Here we revisited the use of genomes and their protein content as a means for developing a viral taxonomy for bacterial and archaeal viruses. A network-based analytic was evaluated and benchmarked against authority-accepted taxonomic assignments and found to be largely concordant. Exceptions were manually examined and found to represent areas of viral genome ‘sequence space’ that are under-sampled or prone to excessive genetic exchange. While both cases are poorly resolved by genome-based taxonomic approaches, the former will improve as viral sequence space is better sampled and the latter are uncommon. Finally, given the largely robust taxonomic capabilities of this approach, we sought to enable researchers to easily and systematically classify new viruses. Thus, we established a tool, vConTACT, as an app at iVirus, where it operates as a fast, highly scalable, user-friendly app within the free and powerful CyVerse cyberinfrastructure.
Microbes drive myriad ecosystem processes, but under strong influence from viruses. Because studying viruses in complex systems requires different tools than those for microbes, they remain underexplored. To combat this, we previously aggregated double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) virus analysis capabilities and resources into ‘iVirus’ on the CyVerse collaborative cyberinfrastructure. Here we substantially expand iVirus’s functionality and accessibility, to iVirus 2.0, as follows. First, core iVirus apps were integrated into the Department of Energy’s Systems Biology KnowledgeBase (KBase) to provide an additional analytical platform. Second, at CyVerse, 20 software tools (apps) were upgraded or added as new tools and capabilities. Third, nearly 20-fold more sequence reads were aggregated to capture new data and environments. Finally, documentation, as “live” protocols, was updated to maximize user interaction with and contribution to infrastructure development. Together, iVirus 2.0 serves as a uniquely central and accessible analytical platform for studying how viruses, particularly dsDNA viruses, impact diverse microbial ecosystems.
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