Polydnaviruses: Evolution and Function
Polydnaviruses (PDVs) were originally viewed as large DNA viruses that are beneficial symbionts of parasitoid wasps. Two groups of PDVs were also recognized: bracoviruses (BVs), which are associated with wasps in the family Braconidae, and ichnoviruses (IVs), which are associated with wasps in the family Ichneumonidae. Results to date indicate that BVs are endogenous virus elements (EVEs) that evolved from an ancient betanudivirus. IVs are also likely EVEs but are unrelated to BVs. BVs and IVs are very unusual relative to most known EVEs because they retain many viral functions that benefit wasps in parasitizing hosts. However, BVs and IVs cannot be considered beneficial symbionts because all components of their genomes are fixed in wasps. Recent studies indicate that other nudiviruses have endogenized in insects. Each exhibits a different functional fate from BVs but shares certain architectural features. We discuss options for classifying BVs and other endogenized nudiviruses. We also discuss future directions.