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Virus discovery in all three major lineages of terrestrial arthropods highlights the diversity of single-stranded DNA viruses associated with invertebrates

By: Karyna Rosario​, Kaitlin A. Mettel, Bayleigh E. Benner, Ryan Johnson, Catherine Scott, Sohath Z. Yusseff-Vanegas, Christopher C.M. Baker, Deby L. Cassill, Caroline Storer, Arvind Varsani, and Mya Breitbart

Abstract

Viruses encoding a replication-associated protein (Rep) within a covalently closed, single-stranded (ss)DNA genome are among the smallest viruses known to infect eukaryotic organisms, including economically valuable agricultural crops and livestock. Although circular Rep-encoding ssDNA (CRESS DNA) viruses are a widespread group for which our knowledge is rapidly expanding, biased sampling toward vertebrates and land plants has limited our understanding of their diversity and evolution. Here, we screened terrestrial arthropods for CRESS DNA viruses and report the identification of 44 viral genomes and replicons associated with specimens representing all three major terrestrial arthropod lineages, namely Euchelicerata (spiders), Hexapoda (insects), and Myriapoda (millipedes). We identified virus genomes belonging to three established CRESS DNA viral families (Circoviridae, Genomoviridae, and Smacoviridae); however, over half of the arthropod-associated viral genomes are only distantly related to currently classified CRESS DNA viral sequences. Although members of viral and satellite families known to infect plants (Geminiviridae, Nanoviridae, Alphasatellitidae) were not identified in this study, these plant-infecting CRESS DNA viruses and replicons are transmitted by hemipterans. Therefore, members from six out of the seven established CRESS DNA viral families circulate among arthropods. Furthermore, a phylogenetic analysis of Reps, including endogenous viral sequences, reported to date from a wide array of organisms revealed that most of the known CRESS DNA viral diversity circulates among invertebrates. Our results highlight the vast and unexplored diversity of CRESS DNA viruses among invertebrates and parallel findings from RNA viral discovery efforts in undersampled taxa.

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