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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1991 May 15;88(10):4270-4.

Positive Darwinian evolution in human influenza A viruses.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Irvine 92717.


We earlier suggested that type A human influenza virus genes undergo positive Darwinian selection through immune surveillance. This requires more favorable amino acid replacements fixed in antigenic sites among the surviving lineages than among the extinct lineages. We now show that viral hemagglutinins fix proportionately more amino acid replacements in antigenic sites in the trunk of the evolutionary tree (survivors) than in the branches (nonsurvivors), demonstrating that type A human influenza virus is undergoing positive Darwinian evolution. The hemagglutinin gene is evolving 3 times faster than the nonstructural gene and the average age of the sampled nonsurvivors is only 1.6 years, so that extinction is not only common but rapid.

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