General introduction. Based on their morphological and physicochemical characteristics, the were initially proposed to constitute a new family of enveloped RNA viruses (Horzinek & Weiss, 1984; Horzinek , 1987). However, recent analysis of the genetic information and replication strategy of the prototype Berne virus (BEV) (Snijder , 1988, 1990) has revealed that toroviruses are not unique: they are clearly related to the and, more distantly, to the arteriviruses (den Boon , 1991). This information has led to the reclassification of the toroviruses as a new genus in the coronavirus family (Pringle, 1992) and to the introduction of the unofficial term ‘coronavirus-like superfamily’ to indicate the evolutionary ties between the three virus groups mentioned above.

The history of torovirus research not only illustrates the taxonomic consequences present-day molecular analysis may have; the BEV genome has also turned out to be a showcase for the two driving forces in RNA virus evolution: divergence from a common ancestor and RNA recombination (Snijder , 1991).


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