Interspecies recombination has driven the macroevolution of cassava mosaic begomoviruses

Alvin Crespo-Bellido, J. Steen Hoyer, Divya Dubey, Ronica B. Jeannot, Siobain Duffy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Begomoviruses (family Geminiviridae, genus Begomovirus) significantly hamper crop production and threaten food security around the world. The frequent emergence of new begomovirus genotypes is facilitated by high mutation frequencies and the propensity to recombine and reassort. Homologous recombination has been especially implicated in the emergence of novel cassava mosaic begomovirus (CMB) genotypes, which cause cassava mosaic disease (CMD). Cassava (Manihot esculenta) is a staple food crop throughout Africa and an important industrial crop in Asia, two continents where production is severely constrained by CMD. The CMD species complex is comprised of 11 bipartite begomovirus species with ample distribution throughout Africa and the Indian subcontinent. While recombination is regarded as a frequent occurrence for CMBs, a revised, systematic assessment of recombination and its impact on CMB phylogeny is currently lacking. We assembled data sets of all publicly available, full-length DNA-A (n = 880) and DNA-B (n = 369) nucleotide sequences from the 11 recognized CMB species. Phylogenetic networks and complementary recombination detection methods revealed extensive recombination among the CMB sequences. Six out of the 11 species descended from unique interspecies recombination events. Estimates of recombination and mutation rates revealed that all species experience mutation more frequently than recombination, but measures of population divergence indicate that recombination is largely responsible for the genetic differences between species. Our results support that recombination has significantly impacted the CMB phylogeny and has driven speciation in the CMD species complex. IMPORTANCE Cassava mosaic disease (CMD) is a significant threat to cassava production throughout Africa and Asia. CMD is caused by a complex comprised of 11 recognized virus species exhibiting accelerated rates of evolution, driven by high frequencies of mutation and genetic exchange. Here, we present a systematic analysis of the contribution of genetic exchange to cassava mosaic virus species-level diversity. Most of these species emerged as a result of genetic exchange. This is the first study to report the significant impact of genetic exchange on speciation in a group of viruses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00541-21
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


  • Evolution
  • Geminivirus
  • Homologous recombination
  • Mutation
  • Speciation


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