Complex recombination patterns arising during geminivirus coinfections preserve and demarcate biologically important intra-genome interaction networks

Author Summary Genetic recombination between viruses is a form of parasexual reproduction during which two parental viruses each contribute genetic information to an offspring, or recombinant, virus. Unlike with sexual reproduction, however, recombination in viruses can even involve the transfer of sequences between the members of distantly related species. When parental genomes are very distantly related, it is anticipated that recombination between them runs the risk of producing defective offspring. The reason for this is that the interactions between different parts of genomes and the proteins they encode (such as between different viral proteins or between viral proteins and the virus genomic DNA or RNA) often depend on particular co-evolved binding sites that recognize one another. When in a recombinant genome the partners in a binding site pair are each inherited from different parents there is a possibility that they will not interact with one another properly. Here we examine recombinant genomes arising during experimental mixed infections of two distantly related viruses to detect evidence that intra-genome interaction networks are broadly preserved in these genomes. We show this preservation is so strict that patterns of recombination in these viruses can even be used to identify the interacting regions within their genomes.