The frenemies within: viruses, retrotransposons and plasmids that naturally infect Saccharomyces yeasts

Yeast. 2017 Jul;34(7):279-292. doi: 10.1002/yea.3234. Epub 2017 Jun 7.


Viruses are a major focus of current research efforts because of their detrimental impact on humanity and their ubiquity within the environment. Bacteriophages have long been used to study host-virus interactions within microbes, but it is often forgotten that the single-celled eukaryote Saccharomyces cerevisiae and related species are infected with double-stranded RNA viruses, single-stranded RNA viruses, LTR-retrotransposons and double-stranded DNA plasmids. These intracellular nucleic acid elements have some similarities to higher eukaryotic viruses, i.e. yeast retrotransposons have an analogous lifecycle to retroviruses, the particle structure of yeast totiviruses resembles the capsid of reoviruses and segregation of yeast plasmids is analogous to segregation strategies used by viral episomes. The powerful experimental tools available to study the genetics, cell biology and evolution of S. cerevisiae are well suited to further our understanding of how cellular processes are hijacked by eukaryotic viruses, retrotransposons and plasmids. This article has been written to briefly introduce viruses, retrotransposons and plasmids that infect Saccharomyces yeasts, emphasize some important cellular proteins and machineries with which they interact, and suggest the evolutionary consequences of these interactions. Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Keywords: Saccharomyces; narnavirus; plasmid; retrotransposon; totivirus; virus; yeast.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Fungal Viruses / isolation & purification*
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Plasmids / isolation & purification*
  • Retroelements*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / virology*


  • Retroelements