Sigma viruses from three species of Drosophila form a major new clade in the rhabdovirus phylogeny

Ben Longdon, Darren J. Obbard, Francis M. Jiggins


The sigma virus (DMelSV), which is a natural pathogen of Drosophila melanogaster, is the only Drosophila-specific rhabdovirus that has been described. We have discovered two new rhabdoviruses, D. obscura and D. affinis, which we have named DObsSV and DAffSV, respectively. We sequenced the complete genomes of DObsSV and DMelSV, and the L gene from DAffSV. Combining these data with sequences from a wide range of other rhabdoviruses, we found that the three sigma viruses form a distinct clade which is a sister group to the Dimarhabdovirus supergroup, and the high levels of divergence between these viruses suggest that they deserve to be recognized as a new genus. Furthermore, our analysis produced the most robustly supported phylogeny of the Rhabdoviridae to date, allowing us to reconstruct the major transitions that have occurred during the evolution of the family. Our data suggest that the bias towards research into plants and vertebrates means that much of the diversity of rhabdoviruses has been missed, and rhabdoviruses may be common pathogens of insects.


    • Received August 13, 2009.
    • Accepted September 16, 2009.
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