You will never walk alone: co-dispersal of JC polyomavirus with human populations

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JC polyomavirus (JCPyV) is one of the most prevalent human viruses. Findings based on the geographic distribution of viral subtypes suggested that JCPyV co-diverged with human populations. This view was however challenged by data reporting a much more recent origin and expansion of JCPyV. We collected information on ∼1,100 worldwide strains and we show that their geographic distribution roughly corresponds to major human migratory routes. Bayesian phylogeographic analysis inferred a Subsaharan origin for JCPyV, although with low posterior probability. High confidence inference at internal nodes provided strong support for a long-standing association between the virus and human populations. In line with these data, pairwise FST values for JCPyV and human mtDNA sampled from the same areas showed a positive and significant correlation. Likewise, very strong relationships were found when node ages in the JCPyV phylogeny were correlated with human population genetic distances (nuclear-marker based FST). Reconciliation analysis detected a significant cophylogenetic signal for the human population and JCPyV trees. Notably, JCPyV also traced some relatively recent migration events such as the expansion of people from the Philippines/Taiwan area into Remote Oceania, the gene flow between North-Eastern Siberian and Ainus, and the Koryak contribution to Circum-Arctic Americans. Finally, different molecular dating approaches dated the origin of JCPyV in a time frame that precedes human out-of-Africa migration. Thus, JCPyV infected early human populations and accompanied our species during worldwide dispersal. JCPyV typing can provide reliable geographic information and the virus most likely adapted to the genetic background of human populations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Publication statusPublished - Oct 8 2019


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