Deep Recombination: RNA and ssDNA Virus Genes in DNA Virus and Host Genomes

Annu Rev Virol. 2015 Nov;2(1):203-17. doi: 10.1146/annurev-virology-100114-055127. Epub 2015 Sep 2.


Viruses are notorious for rapidly exchanging genetic information between close relatives and with the host cells they infect. This exchange has profound effects on the nature and rapidity of virus and host evolution. Recombination between dsDNA viruses is common, as is genetic exchange between dsDNA viruses or retroviruses and host genomes. Recombination between RNA virus genomes is also well known. In contrast, genetic exchange across viral kingdoms, for instance between nonretroviral RNA viruses or ssDNA viruses and host genomes or between RNA and DNA viruses, was previously thought to be practically nonexistent. However, there is now growing evidence for both RNA and ssDNA viruses recombining with host dsDNA genomes and, more surprisingly, RNA virus genes recombining with ssDNA virus genomes. Mechanisms are still unclear, but this deep recombination greatly expands the breadth of virus evolution and confounds virus taxonomy.

Keywords: RNA-DNA recombination; chimeric viruses; hybrid viruses; virus evolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Virus Infections / genetics*
  • DNA Virus Infections / virology*
  • DNA Viruses / genetics*
  • DNA Viruses / physiology
  • DNA, Single-Stranded / genetics
  • DNA, Single-Stranded / metabolism
  • DNA, Viral / genetics*
  • DNA, Viral / metabolism
  • Humans
  • RNA Viruses / genetics*
  • RNA Viruses / physiology
  • RNA, Viral / genetics*
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism
  • Recombination, Genetic*


  • DNA, Single-Stranded
  • DNA, Viral
  • RNA, Viral