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Genetics. 2000 Jan;154(1):27-37.

Evolutionary reversals during viral adaptation to alternating hosts.

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  • 1Section of Integrative Biology, University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78712, USA.


Experimental adaptation of the bacteriophage phiX174 to a Salmonella host depressed its ability to grow on the traditional Escherichia host, whereas adaptation to Escherichia did not appreciably affect growth on Salmonella. Continued host switching consistently exhibited this pattern. Growth inhibition on Escherichia resulted from two to three substitutions in the major capsid gene. When these phages were forced to grow again on Escherichia, fitness recovery occurred predominantly by reversions at these same sites, rather than by second-site compensatory changes, the more frequently observed mechanism in most microbial systems. The affected residues lie on the virion surface and they alter attachment efficiency, yet they occur in a region distinct from a putative binding region previously identified from X-ray crystallography. These residues not only experienced high rates of evolution in our experiments, but also exhibited high levels of radical amino acid variation among phiX174 and its known relatives, consistent with a history of adaptation involving these sites.

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