1932

Abstract

Viral quasispecies are dynamic distributions of nonidentical but closely related mutant and recombinant viral genomes subjected to a continuous process of genetic variation, competition, and selection that may act as a unit of selection. The quasispecies concept owes its theoretical origins to a model for the origin of life as a collection of mutant RNA replicators. Independently, experimental evidence for the quasispecies concept was obtained from sampling of bacteriophage clones, which revealed that the viral populations consisted of many mutant genomes whose frequency varied with time of replication. Similar findings were made in animal and plant RNA viruses. Quasispecies became a theoretical framework to understand viral population dynamics and adaptability. The evidence came at a time when mutations were considered rare events in genetics, a perception that was to change dramatically in subsequent decades. Indeed, viral quasispecies was the conceptual forefront of a remarkable degree of biological diversity, now evident for cell populations and organisms, not only for viruses. Quasispecies dynamics unveiled complexities in the behavior of viral populations,with consequences for disease mechanisms and control strategies. This review addresses the origin of the quasispecies concept, its major implications on both viral evolution and antiviral strategies, and current and future prospects.

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2021-09-29
2024-04-18
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/content/journals/10.1146/annurev-virology-091919-105900
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  • Article Type: Review Article
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