The arthropod origins of RNA viruses

Negative sense RNA viruses in arthropods and non-arthropods A new paper in eLife describes the genetic diversity and novel genome structures of RNA viruses from arthopods, shedding new light on the ancestry and evolutionary history of plant and animal RNA viruses.


Unprecedented genomic diversity of RNA viruses in arthropods reveals the ancestry of negative-sense RNA viruses. eLife January 29 2015; doi: 10.7554/eLife.05378
Although arthropods are important viral vectors, the biodiversity of arthropod viruses, as well as the role that arthropods have played in viral origins and evolution, is unclear. Through RNA sequencing of 70 arthropod species we discovered 112 novel viruses that appear to be ancestral to much of the documented genetic diversity of negative-sense RNA viruses, a number of which are also present as endogenous genomic copies. With this greatly enriched diversity we revealed that arthropods contain viruses that fall basal to major virus groups, including the vertebrate-specific arenaviruses, filoviruses, hantaviruses, influenza viruses, lyssaviruses, and paramyxoviruses. We similarly documented a remarkable diversity of genome structures in arthropod viruses, including a putative circular form, that sheds new light on the evolution of genome organization. Hence, arthropods are a major reservoir of viral genetic diversity and have likely been central to viral evolution.

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One Response to The arthropod origins of RNA viruses

  1. rybicki says:

    I love it when I’m right…B-) “Mononegavirales, which group includes Ebola, measles and mumps and rabies viruses – may be evolutionarily much younger. In this latter case, the viruses all have the same basic genome with genes in the same order and helical nucleocapsids within differently-shaped enveloped particles. Their host ranges also indicate that they originated in insects:”

    I will definitely be citing this: nice piece of work, and thanks for unearthing it!

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