The evolution of multicompartmental genomes in viruses

J Mol Evol. 1987;25(4):277-81. doi: 10.1007/BF02603110.


The genetic information of many viruses is divided between separately encapsidated nucleic acid molecules. A simple evolutionary model is constructed to explain this phenomenon. All multicompartmental viruses infect plants, and most are RNA viruses. The former fact may be due to the high transmission multiplicities enjoyed by plant viruses. The latter may be due to the low replication fidelity of RNA, although another explanation is also offered. The logic of the analysis is contrasted with that of previous explanations. In particular, this paper proceeds from a "selfish DNA" viewpoint. It is not necessary to suppose that the division of the genome fills any adaptive function for the virus. The theory makes testable predictions about the parameters of multicompartmental viruses.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Genes, Viral*
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Plant Viruses / genetics
  • RNA Viruses / genetics*