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Annu Rev Genet. 2012;46:359-69. doi: 10.1146/annurev-genet-110711-155600. Epub 2012 Aug 29.

Plant virus metagenomics: biodiversity and ecology.

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Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA.


Viral metagenomics is the study of viruses in environmental samples, using next generation sequencing that produces very large data sets. For plant viruses, these studies are still relatively new, but are already indicating that our current knowledge grossly underestimates the diversity of these viruses. Some plant virus studies are using thousands of individual plants so that each sequence can be traced back to its precise host. These studies should allow for deeper ecological and evolutionary analyses. The finding of so many new plant viruses that do not cause any obvious symptoms in wild plant hosts certainly changes our perception of viruses and how they interact with their hosts. The major difficulty in these (as in all) metagenomic studies continues to be the need for better bioinformatics tools to decipher the large data sets. The implications of this new information on plant viruses for international agriculture remain to be addressed.

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