John P. DeLong Maitham A. Al-Sammak Zeina T. Al-Ameeli David D. Dunigan Kyle F. Edwards Jeffry J. Fuhrmann
Understanding how phenotypes emerge from genotypes is a foundational goal in biology. As challenging as this task is when considering cellular life, it is further complicated in the case of viruses. During replication, a virus as a discrete entity (the virion) disappears and manifests itself as a metabolic amalgam between the virus and the host (the virocell). Identifying traits that unambiguously constitute a virus’s phenotype is straightforward for the virion, less so for the virocell. Here, we present a framework for categorizing virus phenotypes that encompasses both virion and virocell stages and considers functional and performance traits of viruses in the context of fitness. Such an integrated view of virus phenotype is necessary for comprehensive interpretation of viral genome sequences and will advance our understanding of viral evolution and ecology.