Unveiling crucivirus diversity by mining metagenomic data

Ignacio de la Higuera, George W. Kasun, Ellis L. Torrance, Alyssa A. Pratt, Amberlee Maluenda, Jonathan Colombet, Maxime Bisseux, Viviane Ravet, Anisha Dayaram, Daisy Stainton, Simona Kraberger, Peyman Zawar-Reza, Sharyn Goldstien, James V. Briskie, Robyn White, Helen Taylor, Christopher Gomez, David G. Ainley, Jon S. Harding, Rafaela S. FonteneleJoshua Schreck, Simone G. Ribeiro, Stephen A. Oswald, Jennifer M. Arnold, François Enault, Arvind Varsani, Kenneth M. Stedman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The discovery of cruciviruses revealed the most explicit example of a common protein homologue between DNA and RNA viruses to date. Cruciviruses are a novel group of circular Rep-encoding single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) (CRESS-DNA) viruses that encode capsid proteins that are most closely related to those encoded by RNA viruses in the family Tombusviridae. The apparent chimeric nature of the two core proteins encoded by crucivirus genomes suggests horizontal gene transfer of capsid genes between DNA and RNA viruses. Here, we identified and characterized 451 new crucivirus genomes and 10 capsid-encoding circular genetic elements through de novo assembly and mining of metagenomic data. These genomes are highly diverse, as demonstrated by sequence comparisons and phylogenetic analysis of subsets of the protein sequences they encode. Most of the variation is reflected in the replication-associated protein (Rep) sequences, and much of the sequence diversity appears to be due to recombination. Our results suggest that recombination tends to occur more frequently among groups of cruciviruses with rela-tively similar capsid proteins and that the exchange of Rep protein domains between cruciviruses is rarer than intergenic recombination. Additionally, we suggest members of the stramenopiles/alveolates/Rhizaria supergroup as possible crucivirus hosts. Altogether, we provide a comprehensive and descriptive characterization of cruciviruses. IMPORTANCE Viruses are the most abundant biological entities on Earth. In addi-tion to their impact on animal and plant health, viruses have important roles in ecosystem dynamics as well as in the evolution of the biosphere. Circular Rep-encoding single-stranded (CRESS) DNA viruses are ubiquitous in nature, many are agriculturally important, and they appear to have multiple origins from prokaryotic plasmids. A subset of CRESS-DNA viruses, the cruciviruses, have homologues of capsid proteins encoded by RNA viruses. The genetic structure of cruciviruses attests to the transfer of capsid genes between disparate groups of viruses. However, the evolutionary history of cruciviruses is still unclear. By collecting and analyzing cruciviral sequence data, we provide a deeper insight into the evolutionary intricacies of cruciviruses. Our results reveal an unexpected diversity of this virus group, with frequent recombination as an important determinant of variability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01410-20
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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