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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2016 Jul;14(7):448-60. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro.2016.46. Epub 2016 May 23.

Reassortment in segmented RNA viruses: mechanisms and outcomes.

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Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute, 2 Riverside Circle, Roanoke, Virginia 24016, USA.
Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, 205 Duck Pond Drive, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061, USA.
Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of Health, 31 Center Drive, MSC 2220, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, Osborn Memorial Labs, 165 Prospect Street, P. O. Box 208106, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.
Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Maryland, 8075 Greenmead Drive, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA.


Segmented RNA viruses are widespread in nature and include important human, animal and plant pathogens, such as influenza viruses and rotaviruses. Although the origin of RNA virus genome segmentation remains elusive, a major consequence of this genome structure is the capacity for reassortment to occur during co-infection, whereby segments are exchanged among different viral strains. Therefore, reassortment can create viral progeny that contain genes that are derived from more than one parent, potentially conferring important fitness advantages or disadvantages to the progeny virus. However, for segmented RNA viruses that package their multiple genome segments into a single virion particle, reassortment also requires genetic compatibility between parental strains, which occurs in the form of conserved packaging signals, and the maintenance of RNA and protein interactions. In this Review, we discuss recent studies that examined the mechanisms and outcomes of reassortment for three well-studied viral families - Cystoviridae, Orthomyxoviridae and Reoviridae - and discuss how these findings provide new perspectives on the replication and evolution of segmented RNA viruses.

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