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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2012 Jun;76(2):159-216. doi: 10.1128/MMBR.05023-11.

Viral quasispecies evolution.

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Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa (CSIC-UAM), C/ Nicolás Cabrera, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Cantoblanco, Madrid, Spain.


Evolution of RNA viruses occurs through disequilibria of collections of closely related mutant spectra or mutant clouds termed viral quasispecies. Here we review the origin of the quasispecies concept and some biological implications of quasispecies dynamics. Two main aspects are addressed: (i) mutant clouds as reservoirs of phenotypic variants for virus adaptability and (ii) the internal interactions that are established within mutant spectra that render a virus ensemble the unit of selection. The understanding of viruses as quasispecies has led to new antiviral designs, such as lethal mutagenesis, whose aim is to drive viruses toward low fitness values with limited chances of fitness recovery. The impact of quasispecies for three salient human pathogens, human immunodeficiency virus and the hepatitis B and C viruses, is reviewed, with emphasis on antiviral treatment strategies. Finally, extensions of quasispecies to nonviral systems are briefly mentioned to emphasize the broad applicability of quasispecies theory.

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