We have performed a systematic search for recombination in the region encoding coat protein and the 3′ non-translated region in natural isolates of potyviruses, the largest group of plant RNA viruses. The presence of recombination, and the localization of the cross-over points, were confirmed statistically, by three different methods. Recombination was detected or suspected in 18 out of 109 potyvirus isolates tested, belonging to four out of eight virus species, and was most prevalent in potato virus Y, clear in bean common mosaic virus, and possible in bean yellow mosaic and zucchini yellow mosaic viruses. Recombination was not detected in the four other potyvirus species tested, including plum pox virus, despite the availability of numerous sequences for this last species. Though it was not specifically researched, no evidence for inter-specific recombination was found. For several reasons, including the fact that only a minor portion of the genome was analysed, the above figures certainly represent an underestimate of the extent of recombination among isolates of potyviruses, which might thus be a common phenomenon.


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