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World J Biol Chem. 2013 Nov 26;4(4):79-90. doi: 10.4331/wjbc.v4.i4.79.

Rethinking quasispecies theory: From fittest type to cooperative consortia.

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Luis P Villarreal, Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697, United States.


Recent investigations surprisingly indicate that single RNA "stem-loops" operate solely by chemical laws that act without selective forces, and in contrast, self-ligated consortia of RNA stem-loops operate by biological selection. To understand consortial RNA selection, the concept of single quasi-species and its mutant spectra as drivers of RNA variation and evolution is rethought here. Instead, we evaluate the current RNA world scenario in which consortia of cooperating RNA stem-loops (not individuals) are the basic players. We thus redefine quasispecies as RNA quasispecies consortia (qs-c) and argue that it has essential behavioral motifs that are relevant to the inherent variation, evolution and diversity in biology. We propose that qs-c is an especially innovative force. We apply qs-c thinking to RNA stem-loops and evaluate how it yields altered bulges and loops in the stem-loop regions, not as errors, but as a natural capability to generate diversity. This basic competence-not error-opens a variety of combinatorial possibilities which may alter and create new biological interactions, identities and newly emerged self identity (immunity) functions. Thus RNA stem-loops typically operate as cooperative modules, like members of social groups. From such qs-c of stem-loop groups we can trace a variety of RNA secondary structures such as ribozymes, viroids, viruses, mobile genetic elements as abundant infection derived agents that provide the stem-loop societies of small and long non-coding RNAs.


Cooperative interactions; Evolution; Infectious agents; Quasispecies; RNA stem-loops

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