Hiding in plain sight: New virus genomes discovered via a systematic analysis of fungal public transcriptomes

Kerrigan B. Gilbert, Emily E. Holcomb, Robyn L. Allscheid, James C. Carrington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


The distribution and diversity of RNA viruses in fungi is incompletely understood due to the often cryptic nature of mycoviral infections and the focused study of primarily pathogenic and/or economically important fungi. As most viruses that are known to infect fungi possess either single-stranded or double-stranded RNA genomes, transcriptomic data provides the opportunity to query for viruses in diverse fungal samples without any a priori knowledge of virus infection. Here we describe a systematic survey of all transcriptomic datasets from fungi belonging to the subphylum Pezizomycotina. Using a simple but effective computational pipeline that uses reads discarded during normal RNA-seq analyses, followed by identification of a viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP) motif in de novo assembled contigs, 59 viruses from 44 different fungi were identified. Among the viruses identified, 88% were determined to be new species and 68% are, to our knowledge, the first virus described from the fungal species. Comprehensive analyses of both nucleotide and inferred protein sequences characterize the phylogenetic relationships between these viruses and the known set of mycoviral sequences and support the classification of up to four new families and two new genera. Thus the results provide a deeper understanding of the scope of mycoviral diversity while also increasing the distribution of fungal hosts. Further, this study demonstrates the suitability of analyzing RNA-seq data to facilitate rapid discovery of new viruses.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0219207
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019


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