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Microbiol Rev. Mar 1992; 56(1): 61–79.
PMCID: PMC372854

RNA recombination in animal and plant viruses.


An increasing number of animal and plant viruses have been shown to undergo RNA-RNA recombination, which is defined as the exchange of genetic information between nonsegmented RNAs. Only some of these viruses have been shown to undergo recombination in experimental infection of tissue culture, animals, and plants. However, a survey of viral RNA structure and sequences suggests that many RNA viruses were derived form homologous or nonhomologous recombination between viruses or between viruses and cellular genes during natural viral evolution. The high frequency and widespread nature of RNA recombination indicate that this phenomenon plays a more significant role in the biology of RNA viruses than was previously recognized. Three types of RNA recombination are defined: homologous recombination; aberrant homologous recombination, which results in sequence duplication, insertion, or deletion during recombination; and nonhomologous (illegitimate) recombination, which does not involve sequence homology. RNA recombination has been shown to occur by a copy choice mechanism in some viruses. A model for this recombination mechanism is presented.

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