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J Gen Virol. 2015 Mar;96(Pt 3):714-25. doi: 10.1099/jgv.0.000003. Epub 2014 Dec 5.

Diagnosis and discovery of fungal viruses using deep sequencing of small RNAs.

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Finnish Forest Research Institute, Vantaa Research Unit, Jokiniemenkuja 1, Vantaa, Finland
Finnish Forest Research Institute, Vantaa Research Unit, Jokiniemenkuja 1, Vantaa, Finland.
Department of Agricultural Sciences, P.O. Box 27, University of Helsinki, FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland.


Analysis of virus-derived small RNAs with high-throughput sequencing has been successful for detecting novel viruses in plants and invertebrates. However, the applicability of this method has not been demonstrated in fungi, although fungi were among the first organisms reported to utilize RNA silencing. Here, we used virus-infected isolates of the fungal species complex Heterobasidion annosum sensu lato as a model system to test whether mycovirus genome segments can be detected with small RNA deep sequencing. Species of the genus Heterobasidion are some of the most devastating forest pathogens in boreal forests. These fungi cause wood decay and are commonly infected with species of the family Partitiviridae and the unassigned virus species Heterobasidion RNA virus 6. Small RNA deep sequencing allowed the simultaneous detection of all eight double-stranded RNA virus strains known to be present in the tested samples and one putative mitovirus species (family Narnaviridae) with a single-stranded RNA genome, designated here as Heterobasidion mitovirus 1. Prior to this study, no members of the family Narnaviridae had been described as infecting species of Heterobasidion. Quantification of viral double- and single-stranded RNA with quantitative PCR indicated that co-infecting viral species and viruses with segmented genomes can be detected with small RNA deep sequencing despite vast differences in the amount of RNA. This is the first study demonstrating the usefulness of this method for detecting fungal viruses. Moreover, the results suggest that viral genomes are processed into small RNAs by different species of Heterobasidion.

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