Incomplete bunyavirus particles can cooperatively support virus infection and spread

Erick Bermúdez-Méndez, Kirsten F. Bronsvoort, Mark P. Zwart, Sandra van de Water, Ingrid Cárdenas-Rey, Rianka P.M. Vloet, Constantianus J.M. Koenraadt, Gorben P. Pijlman, Jeroen Kortekaas, Paul J. Wichgers Schreur*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Bunyaviruses lack a specific mechanism to ensure the incorporation of a complete set of genome segments into each virion, explaining the generation of incomplete virus particles lacking one or more genome segments. Such incomplete virus particles, which may represent the majority of particles produced, are generally considered to interfere with virus infection and spread. Using the three-segmented arthropod-borne Rift Valley fever virus as a model bunyavirus, we here show that two distinct incomplete virus particle populations unable to spread autonomously are able to efficiently complement each other in both mammalian and insect cells following co-infection. We further show that complementing incomplete virus particles can co-infect mosquitoes, resulting in the reconstitution of infectious virus that is able to disseminate to the mosquito salivary glands. Computational models of infection dynamics predict that incomplete virus particles can positively impact virus spread over a wide range of conditions, with the strongest effect at intermediate multiplicities of infection. Our findings suggest that incomplete particles may play a significant role in within-host spread and between-host transmission, reminiscent of the infection cycle of multipartite viruses.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3001870
JournalPloS Biology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2022


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