Reovirus RNA recombination is sequence directed and generates internally deleted defective genome segments during passage
For viruses with segmented genomes, genetic diversity is generated by genetic drift, reassortment, and recombination. Recombination produces RNA populations distinct from full-length gene segments and can influence viral population dynamics, persistence, and host immune responses. Viruses in the Reoviridae family, including rotavirus and mammalian orthoreovirus (reovirus), have been reported to package segments containing rearrangements or internal deletions. Rotaviruses with RNA segments containing rearrangements have been isolated from immunocompromised and immunocompetent children and in vitro following serial passage at high multiplicity. Reoviruses that package small, defective RNA segments have established chronic infections in cells and in mice. However, the mechanism and extent of Reoviridae RNA recombination are undefined. Towards filling this gap in knowledge, we determined the titers and RNA segment profiles for reovirus and rotavirus following serial passage in cultured cells. The viruses exhibited occasional titer reductions characteristic of interference. Reovirus strains frequently accumulated segments that retained 5′ and 3′ terminal sequences and featured large internal deletions, while similar segments were rarely detected in rotavirus populations. Using next-generation RNA-sequencing to analyze RNA molecules packaged in purified reovirus particles, we identified distinct recombination sites within individual viral gene segments. Recombination junction sites were frequently associated with short regions of identical sequence. Taken together, these findings suggest that reovirus accumulates defective gene segments featuring internal deletions during passage and undergoes sequence-directed recombination at distinct sites. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
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