RNA-RNA recombination in plant virus replication and evolution

Annu Rev Phytopathol. 2011;49:415-43. doi: 10.1146/annurev-phyto-072910-095351.


RNA-RNA recombination is one of the strongest forces shaping the genomes of plant RNA viruses. The detection of recombination is a challenging task that prompted the development of both in vitro and in vivo experimental systems. In the divided genome of Brome mosaic virus system, both inter- and intrasegmental crossovers are described. Other systems utilize satellite or defective interfering RNAs (DI-RNAs) of Turnip crinkle virus, Tomato bushy stunt virus, Cucumber necrosis virus, and Potato virus X. These assays identified the mechanistic details of the recombination process, revealing the role of RNA structure and proteins in the replicase-mediated copy-choice mechanism. In copy choice, the polymerase and the nascent RNA chain from which it is synthesized switch from one RNA template to another. RNA recombination was found to mediate the rearrangement of viral genes, the repair of deleterious mutations, and the acquisition of nonself sequences influencing the phylogenetics of viral taxa. The evidence for recombination, not only between related viruses but also among distantly related viruses, and even with host RNAs, suggests that plant viruses unabashedly test recombination with any genetic material at hand.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Bromovirus / genetics
  • Bromovirus / physiology
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome, Viral / genetics
  • Mutation
  • Plant Viruses / genetics*
  • Plant Viruses / physiology*
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / genetics*
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Virus Replication / genetics*


  • RNA, Viral
  • RNA, recombinant
  • RNA