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Antiviral Res. 2002 Oct;56(1):1-11.

Fundamental and accessory systems in herpesviruses.

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MRC Virology Unit, Institute of Virology, Church Street, Glasgow G11 5JR, UK.


Evolutionary studies have a large theoretical component and will not directly provide therapies for herpesvirus infections. However, they do provide a conceptual framework within which we can evaluate the origins of the various systems that contribute to viral lifestyle. An evolutionary context allows ancient systems that are fundamental to the replication of all herpesviruses to be distinguished from those that have developed relatively recently in order to tailor viruses to particular biological niches. Both categories are in principle accessible to intervention, either to prevent basic replicative capabilities or to reduce the advantages that the virus has in its interactions with the host. Phylogenetic data provide estimates of evolutionary rate for herpesviruses that are only between one and two orders of magnitude greater than those of their hosts. However, it is becoming apparent that certain genes have evolved much faster under selection pressures and by mechanisms that are not well understood. Nonetheless, the mutation rates of even the most highly conserved genes are sufficient to permit herpesviruses to escape from antiviral therapy. Greater understanding of the origins and functions of herpesvirus genes may lead to new insights into the determinants of pathogenesis and hence to new diagnostic and therapeutic targets.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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