Symbiosis: Viruses as Intimate Partners

Marilyn J. Roossinck, Edelio R. Bazán

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Viruses must establish an intimate relationship with their hosts and vectors in order to infect, replicate, and disseminate; hence, viruses can be considered as symbionts with their hosts. Symbiotic relationships encompass different lifestyles, including antagonistic (or pathogenic, the most well-studied lifestyle for viruses), commensal (probably the most common lifestyle), and mutualistic (important beneficial partners). Symbiotic relationships can shape the evolution of the partners in a holobiont, and placing viruses in this context provides an important framework for understanding virus-host relationships and virus ecology. Although antagonistic relationships are thought to lead to coevolution, this is not always clear in virus-host interactions, and impacts on evolution may be complex. Commensalism implies a hitchhiking role for viruses--selfish elements just along for the ride. Mutualistic relationships have been described in detail in the past decade, and they reveal how important viruses are in considering host ecology. Ultimately, symbiosis can lead to symbiogenesis, or speciation through fusion, and the presence of large amounts of viral sequence in the genomes of everything from bacteria to humans, including some important functional genes, illustrates the significance of viral symbiogenesis in the evolution of all life on Earth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-139
Number of pages17
JournalAnnual Review of Virology
StatePublished - Sep 29 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Virology


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