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Open Access Research article

Evidence for ADAR-induced hypermutation of the Drosophila sigma virus (Rhabdoviridae)

Jennifer A Carpenter1*, Liam P Keegan2, Lena Wilfert3, Mary A O'Connell2 and Francis M Jiggins3

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, West Mains Rd, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, UK

2 MRC Human Genetics Unit, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh EH4 2XU, UK

3 Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EH, UK

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BMC Genetics 2009, 10:75  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-10-75

Published: 26 November 2009



ADARs are RNA editing enzymes that target double stranded RNA and convert adenosine to inosine, which is read by translation machinery as if it were guanosine. Aside from their role in generating protein diversity in the central nervous system, ADARs have been implicated in the hypermutation of some RNA viruses, although why this hypermutation occurs is not well understood.


Here we describe the hypermutation of adenosines to guanosines in the genome of the sigma virus--a negative sense RNA virus that infects Drosophila melanogaster. The clustering of these mutations and the context in which they occur indicates that they have been caused by ADARs. However, ADAR-editing of viral RNA is either rare or edited viral RNA are rapidly degraded, as we only detected evidence for editing in two of the 104 viral isolates we studied.


This is the first evidence for ADARs targeting viruses outside of mammals, and it raises the possibility that ADARs could play a role in the antiviral defences of insects.