What is it about?

Researchers use sequencing technologies to study the genetic structure of living organisms. These nucleic acid sequences are stored in public databases, and the result is tens of petabytes of data available. Fungi are one of the largest branches of the Tree of Life and are susceptible to a wide range of viruses (known as mycoviruses). However, as many mycoviruses cause asymptomatic infections, a fungal strain under study may be unknowingly infected. We hypothesized that analysis of fungal sequencing data for key signatures of RNA viruses would lead to the discovery of mycoviruses in cryptically infected fungi.

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Why is it important?

In this study, by confirming that mycoviral sequences are present in fungi that were not suspected to be infected, we demonstrate the importance of fully characterizing the organism under study. Experimental results can be affected by the presence of an unidentified virus. Further, as they are often overlooked, the breadth of fungal viruses remains to be explored. Indeed, this study described 52 mycoviruses for the first time.


I am deeply grateful that open data sharing has been so widely embraced by the scientific community. These discoveries were only possible as labs across the globe openly shared their data for other researchers to use and analyze.

Kerrigan Gilbert
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Hiding in plain sight: New virus genomes discovered via a systematic analysis of fungal public transcriptomes, PLoS ONE, July 2019, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0219207.
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