Multi‐component Plant Viruses


Many plant viruses divide their coding capacity into multiple genomic segments, hence are referred to as multi‐component viruses. These include viruses with either RNA or DNA genomes, in either single‐stranded (ss) or double‐stranded (ds) conformations. Furthermore, those with ssRNA genomes may encode viral proteins on the genome strand ([+] sense RNA viruses), the complementary strand ([−] sense RNA viruses) of the genomic RNA or both (ambisense RNA viruses). Multi‐component, (+) sense RNA viruses could comprise up to five genome segments, whereas (−) sense RNA viruses can have up to eight. Strikingly, most of characterised dsRNA viruses have 10–12 genome segments packaged in the same virus particles. Finally, the genomes of multi‐component DNA plant viruses are almost always single‐stranded, circular, and each of the segments (up to eight) is packaged in separate particles. Possible evolutionary relationships between multi‐component viruses and their monopartite relatives are discussed.

Key Concepts

  • Plant virus genomes can be non‐segmented (monopartite) or segmented (multi‐partite).
  • Multi‐partite plant viruses can be found in almost all major plant virus families, with different genome materials (RNA or DNA) and configurations (single‐stranded or double‐stranded), and varying virion shapes.
  • Plant viruses with most genome segments are plant‐infecting reoviruses, containing 10–12 double‐stranded RNA segments package together in the same non‐enveloped, multi‐layer capsids.
  • Nanoviruses are small viruses with up to eight single‐stranded, circular DNA genomes separately packaged in isometric particles.

Keywords: plant virus; multi‐component; genome segment; coding strategy; virion structure


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Zhang, Xiao‐Feng, and Qu, Feng(Jan 2015) Multi‐component Plant Viruses. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0024783]