Evolution and genetic diversity of primate cytomegaloviruses

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Cytomegaloviruses (CMVs) infect many mammals, including humans and non–human primates (NHPs). Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is an important opportunistic pathogen among immunocompromised patients and represents the most common infectious cause of birth defects. HCMV possesses a large genome and very high genetic diversity. NHP–infecting CMVs share with HCMV a similar genomic organization and coding content, as well as the course of viral infection. Recent technological advances have allowed the sequencing of several HCMV strains from clinical samples and provided insight into the diversity of NHP–infecting CMVs. The emerging picture indicates that, with the exclusion of core genes (genes that have orthologs in all herpesviruses), CMV genomes are relatively plastic and diverse in terms of gene content, both at the inter– and at the intra–species level. Such variability most likely underlies the strict species–specificity of these viruses, as well as their ability to persist lifelong and with relatively little damage to their hosts. However, core genes, despite their strong conservation, also represented a target of adaptive evolution and subtle changes in their coding sequence contributed to CMV adaptation to different hosts. Indubitably, important knowledge gaps remain, the most relevant of which concerns the role of viral genetics in HCMV–associated human disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberE624
Number of pages17
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Genome organization
  • Human primates
  • Non
  • Positive selection
  • Species
  • Specificity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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