Defective viral genomes (DVGs) are natural products of virus replication that occur in many positive and negative sense RNA viruses, including Ebola, dengue and respiratory syncytial virus. DVGs, which have severe genomic truncations and require a helper virus to replicate, have three well-described functions: Interference with standard virus replication, immunostimulation, and establishment of virus persistence. These functions of DVGs were first described almost 50 years ago, yet only recent studies have shown the molecular intersection between their immunostimulatory and pro-persistence activities. Here, we review more than half a century of scientific literature on the immunostimulatory and pro-persistence functions of DVGs. We highlight recent advances in the field and the critical role DVGs have in both the acute and long-term virus-host interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-503
Number of pages11
JournalFuture Virology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • RNA virus
  • defective viral genomes
  • immunostimulation
  • interference
  • virus persistence


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