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Journal Articles Virus Evolution Year : 2021

Unresolved advantages of multipartitism in spatially structured environments


Multipartite viruses have segmented genomes and package each of their genome segments individually into distinct virus particles. Multipartitism is common among plant viruses, but why this apparently costly genome organization and packaging has evolved remains unclear. Recently Zhang and colleagues developed network epidemiology models to study the epidemic spread of multipartite viruses and their distribution over plant and animal hosts (Phys. Rev. Lett. 2019, 123, 138101). In this short commentary, we call into question the relevance of these results because of key model assumptions. First, the model of plant hosts assumes virus transmission only occurs between adjacent plants. This assumption overlooks the basic but imperative fact that most multipartite viruses are transmitted over variable distances by mobile animal vectors, rendering the model results irrelevant to differences between plant and animal hosts. Second, when not all genome segments of a multipartite virus are transmitted to a host, the model assumes an incessant latent infection occurs. This is a bold assumption for which there is no evidence to date, making the relevance of these results to understanding multipartitism questionable.
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Dates and versions

hal-03219672 , version 1 (06-05-2021)



Mark P Zwart, Stéphane Blanc, Marcelle Johnson, Susanna Manrubia, Yannis Michalakis, et al.. Unresolved advantages of multipartitism in spatially structured environments. Virus Evolution, 2021, 7 (1), ⟨10.1093/ve/veab004⟩. ⟨hal-03219672⟩
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