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Virus Genes. 1998;16(1):119-31.

Origin, adaptation and evolutionary pathways of fungal viruses.

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Department of Plant Pathology, University of Kentucky, Lexington 40546-0091, USA.


Fungal viruses or mycoviruses are widespread in fungi and are believed to be of ancient origin. They have evolved in concert with their hosts and are usually associated with symptomless infections. Mycoviruses are transmitted intracellularly during cell division, sporogenesis and cell fusion, and they lack an extracellular phase to their life cycles. Their natural host ranges are limited to individuals within the same or closely related vegetative compatibility groups. Typically, fungal viruses are isometric particles 25-50 nm in diameter, and possess dsRNA genomes. The best characterized of these belong to the family Totiviridae whose members have simple undivided dsRNA genomes comprised of a coat protein (CP) gene and an RNA dependent RNA polymerase (RDRP) gene. A recently characterized totivirus infecting a filamentous fungus was found to be more closely related to protozoan totiviruses than to yeast totiviruses suggesting these viruses existed prior to the divergence of fungi and protozoa. Although the dsRNA viruses at large are polyphyletic, based on RDRP sequence comparisons, the totiviruses are monophyletic. The theory of a cellular self-replicating mRNA as the origin of totiviruses is attractive because of their apparent ancient origin, the close relationships among their RDRPs, genome simplicity and the ability to use host proteins efficiently. Mycoviruses with bipartite genomes (partitiviruses), like the totiviruses, have simple genomes, but the CP and RDRP genes are on separate dsRNA segments. Because of RDRP sequence similarity, the partitiviruses are probably derived from a totivirus ancestor. The mycoviruses with unencapsidated dsRNA-like genomes (hypoviruses) and those with bacilliform (+) strand RNA genomes (barnaviruses) have more complex genomes and appear to have common ancestry with plant (+) strand RNA viruses in supergroup 1 with potyvirus and sobemovirus lineages, respectively. The La France isometric virus (LIV), an unclassified virus with multipartite dsRNA genome, is associated with a severe die-back disease of the cultivated mushroom. LIV appears to be of recent origin since it differs from its host in codon usage.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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