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Recombination in enteroviruses is a ubiquitous event independent of sequence homology and RNA structure

By Fadi Ghassan Alnaji, Kirsten Bentley, Ashley Pearson, Andrew Woodman, Jonathan D. Moore, Helen Fox, Andrew Macadam, David H Evans

Posted 29 Sep 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.09.29.319285

Recombination within RNA viruses is an important evolutionary process that can significantly influence virus fitness and has been repeatedly reported to compromise vaccine effectiveness. However, its precise mechanism is poorly understood. Here, we used an established poliovirus-based in vitro assay (CRE-REP) to investigate the molecular determinants of recombination and show that neither sequence identity, nor RNA structure, have any significant effect on recombination frequency. Since the CRE-REP assay is confined by the ability to detect infectious virus progeny, we utilized deep sequencing to study the recombinant genome population that arises early in infection and before any bottleneck of selection for viable progeny. We were able to detect and analyse hundreds of recombinants containing sequence insertions or deletions, or that were of wild type genome length. While we found higher diversity in recombination events than from CRE-REP assays, the analyses demonstrate no biases towards sequence or structure, in support of the CRE-REP assay findings. The results suggest that genome functionality and fitness are of greater importance in determining the identity of recombinants. These studies provide critical information that can improve our understanding of the recombination process, and consequently allow for the production of less recombinogenic and more stable vaccines. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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