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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Assessment of codivergence of Mastreviruses with their plant hosts

Beilei Wu1, Ulrich Melcher2, Xingyi Guo3, Xifeng Wang1*, Longjiang Fan3 and Guanghe Zhou1

Author Affiliations

1 State Key Laboratory for Biology of Plant Diseases and Insect Pests, Institute of Plant Protection, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, No. 2 West Yuanming Rd, Beijing 100193, PR China

2 Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078-3035, USA

3 College of Agriculture and Biotechnology, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310029, PR China

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2008, 8:335  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-335

Published: 18 December 2008



Viruses that have spent most of their evolutionary time associated with a single host lineage should have sequences that reflect codivergence of virus and host. Several examples for RNA viruses of host-virus tree congruence are being challenged. DNA viruses, such as mastreviruses, are more likely than RNA viruses to have maintained a record of host lineage association.


The full genomes of 28 isolates of Wheat dwarf virus (WDV), a member of the Mastrevirus genus, from different regions of China were sequenced. The analysis of these 28 entire genomes and 18 entire genome sequences of cereal mastreviruses from other countries support the designation of wheat, barley and oat mastrevirus isolates as separate species. They revealed that relative divergence times for the viruses WDV, Barley dwarf virus (BDV), Oat dwarf virus (ODV) and Maize streak virus (MSV) are proportional to divergence times of their hosts, suggesting codivergence. Considerable diversity among Chinese isolates was found and was concentrated in hot spots in the Rep A, SIR, LIR, and intron regions in WDV genomes. Two probable recombination events were detected in Chinese WDV isolates. Analysis including further Mastrevirus genomes concentrated on coding regions to avoid difficulties due to recombination and hyperdiversity. The analysis demonstrated congruence of trees in two branches of the genus, but not in the third. Assuming codivergence, an evolutionary rate of 10-8 substitutions per site per year was calculated. The low rate implies stronger constraints against change than are obtained by other methods of estimating the rate.


We report tests of the hypothesis that mastreviruses have codiverged with their monocotyledonous hosts over 50 million years of evolution. The tests support the hypothesis for WDV, BDV and ODV, but not for MSV and other African streak viruses.