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Expanding the RNA Virosphere by Unbiased Metagenomics

Authors
  • Zhang, Yong-Zhen
  • Chen, Yan-Mei
  • Wang, Wen
  • Qin, Xin-Chen
  • Holmes, Edward C.
Type
Published Article
Publisher
Annual Reviews
Publication Date
Sep 29, 2019
Volume
6
Pages
119–139
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1146/annurev-virology-092818-015851
Source
Annual Reviews
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

Although viruses comprise the most abundant genetic material in the biosphere, to date only several thousand virus species have been formally defined. Such a limited perspective on virus diversity has in part arisen because viruses were traditionally considered only as etiologic agents of overt disease in humans or economically important species and were often difficult to identify using cell culture. This view has dramatically changed with the rise of metagenomics, which is transforming virus discovery and revealing a remarkable diversity of viruses sampled from diverse cellular organisms. These newly discovered viruses help fill major gaps in the evolutionary history of viruses, revealing a near continuum of diversity among genera, families, and even orders of RNA viruses. Herein, we review some of the recent advances in our understanding of the RNA virosphere that have stemmed from metagenomics, note future directions, and highlight some of the remaining challenges to this rapidly developing field.

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