Novel Viroid‐Like RNAs Naturally Infect a Filamentous Fungus
Coutts, Robert H. A.
To date, viroids have been found to naturally infect only plants, resulting in substantial losses for some crops. Whether viroids or viroid‐like RNAs naturally infect non‐plant hosts remains unknown. Here the existence of a set of exogenous, single‐stranded circular RNAs, ranging in size from 157 to 450 nucleotides, isolated from the fungus Botryosphaeria dothidea and nominated B. dothidea RNAs (BdcRNAs) is reported. BdcRNAs replicate autonomously in the nucleus via a rolling‐circle mechanism following a symmetric pathway. BdcRNA infection induces symptoms, because BdcRNAs can apparently modulate, to different degrees, specific biological traits (e.g., alter morphology, decrease growth rate, attenuate virulence, and increase or decrease tolerance to osmotic and oxidative stress) of the host fungus. Overall, BdcRNAs have genome characteristics similar to those of viroids and exhibit pathogenic effects on fungal hosts. It is proposed that these novel fungus infecting RNAs should be termed mycoviroids. BdcRNA(s) may be considered additional inhabitants at the frontier of life in terms of genomic complexity, and represent a new class of acellular entities endowed with regulatory functions, and novel epigenomic carriers of biological information.