In and out: Evolution of viral sequences in the mitochondrial genomes of legumes (Fabaceae)

In Su Choi, Martin F. Wojciechowski, Tracey A. Ruhlman, Robert K. Jansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Plant specific mitoviruses in the ‘genus’ Mitovirus (Narnaviridae) and their integrated sequences (non-retroviral endogenous RNA viral elements or NERVEs) have been recently identified in various plant lineages. However, the sparse phylogenetic coverage of complete plant mitochondrial genome (mitogenome) sequences and the non-conserved nature of mitochondrial intergenic regions have hindered comparative studies on mitovirus NERVEs in plants. In this study, 10 new mitogenomes were sequenced from legumes (Fabaceae). Based on comparative genomic analysis of 27 total mitogenomes, we identified mitovirus NERVEs and transposable elements across the family. All legume mitogenomes included NERVEs and total NERVE length varied from ca. 2 kb in the papilionoid Trifolium to 35 kb in the mimosoid Acacia. Most of the NERVE integration sites were in highly variable intergenic regions, however, some were positioned in six cis-spliced mitochondrial introns. In the Acacia mitogenome, there were L1-like transposon sequences including an almost full-length copy with target site duplications (TSDs). The integration sites of NERVEs in four introns showed evidence of L1-like retrotransposition events. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that there were multiple instances of precise deletion of NERVEs between TSDs. This study provides clear evidence that a L1-like retrotransposition mechanism has a long history of contributing to the integration of viral RNA into plant mitogenomes while microhomology-mediated deletion can restore the integration site.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107236
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Comparative genomics
  • Group II intron
  • Horizontal gene transfer
  • Intracellular gene transfer
  • Target primed reverse transcription

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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