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    Viruses are among the shortest yet highly abundant species that harbor minimal instructions to infect cells, adapt, multiply, and exist. However, with the current substantial availability of viral genome sequences, the scientific repertory lacks a complexity landscape that automatically enlights viral genomes' organization, relation, and fundamental characteristics. This work provides a comprehensive landscape of the viral genome's complexity (or quantity of information), identifying the most redundant and complex groups regarding their genome sequence while providing their distribution and characteristics at a large and local scale. Moreover, we identify and quantify inverted repeats abundance in viral genomes. For this purpose, we measure the sequence complexity of each available viral genome using data compression, demonstrating that adequate data compressors can efficiently quantify the complexity of viral genome sequences, including subsequences better represented by algorithmic sources (e.g., inverted repeats). Using a state-of-the-art genomic compressor on an extensive viral genomes database, we show that double-stranded DNA viruses are, on average, the most redundant viruses while single-stranded DNA viruses are the least. Contrarily, double-stranded RNA viruses show a lower redundancy relative to single-stranded RNA. Furthermore, we extend the ability of data compressors to quantify local complexity (or information content) in viral genomes using complexity profiles, unprecedently providing a direct complexity analysis of human herpesviruses. We also conceive a features-based classification methodology that can accurately distinguish viral genomes at different taxonomic levels without direct comparisons between sequences. This methodology combines data compression with simple measures such as GC-content percentage and sequence length, followed by machine learning classifiers. This article presents methodologies and findings that are highly relevant for understanding the patterns of similarity and singularity between viral groups, opening new frontiers for studying viral genomes' organization while depicting the complexity trends and classification components of these genomes at different taxonomic levels. The whole study is supported by an extensive website ( for comprehending the viral genome characterization using dynamic and interactive approaches. © The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press GigaScience.


    Jorge Miguel Silva, Diogo Pratas, Tânia Caetano, Sérgio Matos. The complexity landscape of viral genomes. GigaScience. 2022 Aug 11;11

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    PMID: 35950839

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