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J Insect Physiol. 2003 May;49(5):419-32.

Origin and evolution of polydnaviruses by symbiogenesis of insect DNA viruses in endoparasitic wasps.

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Department of Entomology and Interdepartmental Graduate Programs in Genetics and Microbiology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA.


During oviposition, many endoparasitic wasps inject virus-like particles into their insect hosts that enable these parasitoids to evade or directly suppress their hosts' immune system, especially encapsulation by hemocytes. These particles are defined as virions that belong to viruses of the two genera that comprise the family Polydnaviridae, bracoviruses (genus Bracovirus) transmitted by braconid wasps, and ichnoviruses (genus Ichnovirus) transmitted by ichneumonid wasps. Structurally, bracovirus virions resemble nudivirus and baculovirus virions (family Baculoviridae), and ichnovirus virions resemble those of ascoviruses (family Ascoviridae). Whereas nudiviruses, baculoviruses and ascoviruses replicate their DNA and produce progeny virions, polydnavirus DNA is integrated into and replicated from the wasp genome, which also directs virion synthesis. The structural similarity of polydnavirus virions to those of viruses that attack the wasps' lepidopteran hosts, along with polydnavirus transmission and replication biology, suggest that these viruses evolved from insect DNA viruses by symbiogenesis, the same process by which mitochondia and chloroplasts evolved from bacteria. Molecular evidence supporting this hypothesis comes from similarities among structural proteins of ascoviruses and the Campoletis sonorensis ichnovirus. Implications of this hypothesis are that polydnaviruses evolved from viruses, but are no longer viruses, and that DNA packaged into polydnavirus virions is not viral genomic DNA per se, but rather wasp genomic DNA consisting primarily of wasp genes and non-coding DNA. Thus, we suggest that a better understanding of polydnaviruses would result by viewing these not as viruses, but rather as a wasp organelle system that evolved to shuttle wasp genes and proteins into hosts to evade and suppress their immune response.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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