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Curr Opin Virol. 2012 Oct;2(5):525-30. doi: 10.1016/j.coviro.2012.06.008. Epub 2012 Jul 19.

RNA virus genetic robustness: possible causes and some consequences.

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Instituto de Biología Molecular y Celular de Plantas (CSIC-UPV), Campus UPV CPI 8E, Ingeniero Fausto Elio s/n, 46022 València, Spain.


In general terms, robustness is the capacity of biological systems to function in spite of genetic or environmental perturbations. The small and compacted genomes and high mutation rates of RNA viruses, as well as the ever-changing environments wherein they replicate, create the conditions for robustness to be advantageous. In this review, I will enumerate possible mechanisms by which viral populations may acquire robustness, distinguishing between mechanisms that are inherent to virus replication and population dynamics and those that result from the interaction with host factors. Then, I will move to review some evidences that RNA virus populations are robust indeed. Finally, I will comment on the implications of robustness for virus evolvability, the emergence of new viruses and the efficiency of lethal mutagenesis as an antiviral strategy.

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