Identification of the viral determinant of hypovirulence and host range in sclerotiniaceae of a genomovirus reconstructed from the plant metagenome

Chenchen Feng, Jiuhuan Feng, Ziyi Wang, Connor Pedersen, Xiuqing Wang, Huma Saleem, Leslie Domier, Shin Yi Lee Marzano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Uncharacterized viral genomes that encode circular replication-associated proteins of single-stranded DNA viruses have been discovered by metagenomics/metatranscriptomics approaches. Some of these novel viruses are classified in the newly formed family Genomoviridae. Here, we determined the host range of a novel genomovirus, SlaGemV-1, through the transfection of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum with infectious clones. Inoculating with the rescued virions, we further transfected Botrytis cinerea and Monilinia fructicola, two economically important members of the family Sclerotiniaceae, and Fusarium oxysporum. SlaGemV-1 causes hypovirulence in S. sclerotiorum, B. cinerea, and M. fructicola. SlaGemV-1 also replicates in Spodoptera frugiperda insect cells but not in Caenorhabditis elegans or plants. By expressing viral genes separately through site-specific integration, the replication protein alone was sufficient to cause debilitation. Our study is the first to demonstrate the reconstruction of a metagenomically discovered genomovirus without known hosts with the potential of inducing hypovirulence, and the infectious clone allows for studying mechanisms of genomovirus-host interactions that are conserved across genera. IMPORTANCE Little is known about the exact host range of widespread genomoviruses. The genome of soybean leaf-associated gemygorvirus-1 (SlaGemV-1) was originally assembled from a metagenomic/metatranscriptomic study without known hosts. Here, we rescued SlaGemV-1 and found that it could infect three important plant-pathogenic fungi and fall armyworm (S. frugiperda Sf9) insect cells but not a model nematode, C. elegans, or model plant species. Most importantly, SlaGemV-1 shows promise for inducing hypovirulence of the tested fungal species in the family Sclerotiniaceae, including Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, Botrytis cinerea, and Monilinia fructicola. The viral determinant of hypovirulence was further identified as replication initiation protein. As a proof of concept, we demonstrate that viromes discovered in plant metagenomes can be a valuable genetic resource when novel viruses are rescued and characterized for their host range.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0026421
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Biocontrol
  • Botrytis cinerea
  • Gemygorvirus
  • Genomovirus
  • Mycovirus
  • Sclerotinia sclerotiorum
  • Virulence determinants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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