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PLoS Pathog. 2014 Jan;10(1):e1003838. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1003838. Epub 2014 Jan 9.

Cell tropism predicts long-term nucleotide substitution rates of mammalian RNA viruses.

Author information

1
Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey, United States of America.

Abstract

The high rates of RNA virus evolution are generally attributed to replication with error-prone RNA-dependent RNA polymerases. However, these long-term nucleotide substitution rates span three orders of magnitude and do not correlate well with mutation rates or selection pressures. This substitution rate variation may be explained by differences in virus ecology or intrinsic genomic properties. We generated nucleotide substitution rate estimates for mammalian RNA viruses and compiled comparable published rates, yielding a dataset of 118 substitution rates of structural genes from 51 different species, as well as 40 rates of non-structural genes from 28 species. Through ANCOVA analyses, we evaluated the relationships between these rates and four ecological factors: target cell, transmission route, host range, infection duration; and three genomic properties: genome length, genome sense, genome segmentation. Of these seven factors, we found target cells to be the only significant predictors of viral substitution rates, with tropisms for epithelial cells or neurons (P<0.0001) as the most significant predictors. Further, one-tailed t-tests showed that viruses primarily infecting epithelial cells evolve significantly faster than neurotropic viruses (P<0.0001 and P<0.001 for the structural genes and non-structural genes, respectively). These results provide strong evidence that the fastest evolving mammalian RNA viruses infect cells with the highest turnover rates: the highly proliferative epithelial cells. Estimated viral generation times suggest that epithelial-infecting viruses replicate more quickly than viruses with different cell tropisms. Our results indicate that cell tropism is a key factor in viral evolvability.

PMID:
24415935
PMCID:
PMC3887100
DOI:
10.1371/journal.ppat.1003838
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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