In a study published in the journal
The oceans are rich of various kinds of resources which have great exploitation potential and are far away from fully understood. There are not only many animal and plant species undiscovered, but also a larger number of microorganisms such as viruses. The virus-related marine biosafety issues deserve great attention.
Traditional studies of marine viruses have focused on bacteriophage represented DNA viruses, and little is known about the genetic diversity, distribution characteristics and transmission patterns of RNA viruses characterized with higher substitution rate and more unstable genome.
Prof. CUI's group collected a total of 58 marine invertebrate samples from three phyla and six classes, and studied their RNA viromes with the approach of meta-transcriptomics sequencing.
By using improved bioinformatic pipelines, the researchers have identified 363 RNA viruses covering nine virus families (Durnavirales, Totiviridae, Bunyavirales, Chuviridae, Picornavirales, Flaviviridae, Hepelivirales, Solemoviridae, and Tombusviridae). Among them, 315 RNA viruses are sufficiently divergent to the already documented RNA viruses, which greatly expands the collection of marine invertebrate viruses.
Besides, they reported three marine invertebrate hantaviruses that are more ancient than vertebrate Hantavirus from the land, further supporting the possibility that hantaviruses have a marine origin.
With a combination of genomic structure and statistical analysis, the researchers demonstrated a high genetic diversity of marine RNA viruses and viral genome elasticity, and revealed possible virus transmission in different ocean areas and among different invertebrate species.
This study provided important insights and perspectives on the origin, evolution and transmission of marine RNA viruses by revealing marine invertebrate RNA virosphere.
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