Polydnavirus genomes and viral gene functions are atypical for viruses. Polydnaviruses are the only group of viruses with segmented DNA genomes and have a unusual obligate mutualistic association with parasitic Hymenoptera, in which the virus is required for survival of the wasp host and vice versa. The virus replicates asymptomatically in the wasp host but severely disrupts lepidopteran host physiology in the absence of viral DNA replication. It is not surprising then that viral gene expression is divergent in its two insect hosts and that differences in viral gene expression are linked to these divergent functions. Some vital genes are expressed only in the wasp host while other viral genes are expressed only in the lepidopteran host and are presumed to be involved in the disruption of host physiological systems. Our laboratory has described the expression and regulation of a family of viral genes implicated in suppressing the lepidopteran immune system, the cys- motif genes. In conjunction with these studies we have described the physical organization of additional viral gene segments. We have cloned, mapped and begun the sequence analysis of selected vital DNA segments. We have noted that some vital DNA segments are nested and that nested viral DNA segments encode the abundantly expressed, secreted cys-motif genes. Conversely, other vital segments are not nested, encode less abundantly expressed genes and may be targeted intra-cellularly. These results suggest that nesting of segments in polydnavirus genomes may be linked to the levels of gene expression. By extension, the unique, segmented organization of polydnavirus genomes may be associated, in part, with the requirement for divergent levels of vital gene expression in lepidopteran hosts in the absence of viral DNA replication.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Insect Science