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Population bottlenecks in quasispecies dynamics.

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Centro de Biologia Molecular "Severo Ochoa" (CSIC-UAM), Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 28049 Cantoblanco, Madrid, Spain.


The characteristics of natural populations result from different stochastic and deterministic processes that include reproduction with error, selection, and genetic drift. In particular, population fluctuations constitute a stochastic process that may play a very relevant role in shaping the structure of populations. For example, it is expected that small asexual populations will accumulate mutations at a higher rate than larger ones. As a consequence, in any population the fixation of mutations is accelerated when environmental conditions cause population bottlenecks. Bottlenecks have been relatively frequent in the history of life and it is generally accepted that they are highly relevant for speciation. Although population bottlenecks can occur in any species, their effects are more noticeable in organisms that form large and heterogeneous populations, such as RNA viral quasispecies. Bottlenecks can also positively select and isolate particles that still keep the ability to infect cells from a disorganized population created by crossing the error threshold.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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