Mechanisms and outcomes of reassortment for segmented RNA viruses.

Nature Reviews Microbiology 14:448-460;
Year of Publication: 
McDonald, S.M., M.I. Nelson, P.E. Turner, and J.T. Patton.

Segmented RNA viruses are widespread in nature and include important human, animal and plant pathogens, such as influenza viruses and rotaviruses. Although the origin of RNA virus genome segmentation remains elusive, a major consequence of this genome structure is the capacity for reassortment to occur during co-infection, whereby segments are exchanged among different viral strains. Therefore, reassortment can create viral progeny that contain genes that are derived from more than one parent, potentially conferring important fitness advantages or disadvantages to the progeny virus. However, for segmented RNA viruses that package their multiple genome segments into a single virion particle, reassortment also requires genetic compatibility between parental strains, which occurs in the form of conserved packaging signals, and the maintenance of RNA and protein interactions. In this Review, we discuss recent studies that examined the mechanisms and outcomes of reassortment for three well-studied viral families - Cystoviridae, Orthomyxoviridae and Reoviridae - and discuss how these findings provide new perspectives on the replication and evolution of segmented RNAviruses.