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Annu Rev Entomol. 2010;55:129-50. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ento-112408-085457.


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Department of Entomology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA.


Dicistroviruses are members of a recently defined and rapidly growing family of picornavirus-like RNA viruses called the Dicistroviridae. Dicistroviruses are pathogenic to beneficial arthropods such as honey bees and shrimp and to insect pests of medical and agricultural importance. Our understanding of these viruses is uneven. We present highly advanced studies of the virus particle structure, remarkable mechanisms of internal ribosome entry in translation of viral RNA, and the use of dicistroviruses to study the insect immune system. However, little is known about dicistrovirus RNA replication mechanisms or gene function, except by comparison with picornaviruses. The recent construction of infectious clones of dicistrovirus genomes may fill these gaps in knowledge. We discuss economically important diseases caused by dicistroviruses. Future research may lead to protection of beneficial arthropods from dicistroviruses and to application of dicistroviruses as biopesticides targeting pestiferous insects.

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