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J Virol. 2012 Aug;86(15):8221-31. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00293-12. Epub 2012 May 23.

Metagenomic characterization of airborne viral DNA diversity in the near-surface atmosphere.

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Department of Life and Nanopharmaceutical Science, Kyung Hee University, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea.


Airborne viruses are expected to be ubiquitous in the atmosphere but they still remain poorly understood. This study investigated the temporal and spatial dynamics of airborne viruses and their genotypic characteristics in air samples collected from three distinct land use types (a residential district [RD], a forest [FR], and an industrial complex [IC]) and from rainwater samples freshly precipitated at the RD site (RD-rain). Viral abundance exhibited a seasonal fluctuation in the range between 1.7 × 10(6) and 4.0 × 10(7) viruses m(-3), which increased from autumn to winter and decreased toward spring, but no significant spatial differences were observed. Temporal variations in viral abundance were inversely correlated with seasonal changes in temperature and absolute humidity. Metagenomic analysis of air viromes amplified by rolling-circle phi29 polymerase-based random hexamer priming indicated the dominance of plant-associated single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) geminivirus-related viruses, followed by animal-infecting circovirus-related sequences, with low numbers of nanoviruses and microphages-related genomes. Particularly, the majority of the geminivirus-related viruses were closely related to ssDNA mycoviruses that infect plant-pathogenic fungi. Phylogenetic analysis based on the replication initiator protein sequence indicated that the airborne ssDNA viruses were distantly related to known ssDNA viruses, suggesting that a high diversity of viruses were newly discovered. This research is the first to report the seasonality of airborne viruses and their genetic diversity, which enhances our understanding of viral ecology in temperate regions.

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