Nematodes are the most abundant multicellular animals on earth, yet little is known about their natural viral pathogens. To date, only two nematode virus genomes have been reported. Consequently, nematode viruses have been overlooked as important biotic factors in the study of nematode ecology. Here, we show that one plant parasitic nematode species, Heterodera glycines, the soybean cyst nematode (SCN), harbours four different RNA viruses. The nematode virus genomes were discovered in the SCN transcriptome after high-throughput sequencing and assembly. All four viruses have negative-sense RNA genomes, and are distantly related to nyaviruses and bornaviruses, rhabdoviruses, bunyaviruses and tenuiviruses. Some members of these families replicate in and are vectored by insects, and can cause significant diseases in animals and plants. The novel viral sequences were detected in both eggs and the second juvenile stage of SCN, suggesting that these viruses are transmitted vertically. While there was no evidence of integration of viral sequences into the nematode genome, we indeed detected transcripts from these viruses by using quantitative PCR. These data are the first finding of virus genomes in parasitic nematodes. This discovery highlights the need for further exploration for nematode viruses in all tropic groups of these diverse and abundant animals, to determine how the presence of these viruses affects the fitness of the nematode, strategies of viral transmission and mechanisms of viral pathogenesis.
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