During the past decade or so, there has been a substantial body of work to dissect arboviral evolution and to develop models of adaptation during host switching. Regardless of what species serve as host or vectors, and of the geographic distribution and the mechanisms of replication, arboviruses tend to have slow evolutionary rates in nature. The hypothesis that this is the result of replication in the disparate environments provided by host and vector did not receive solid experimental support in any of the many viral species tested. Instead, it seems that from the virus's point of view, either the two environments are sufficiently similar or one of the environments so dominates viral evolution that there is tolerance for suboptimal adaptation to the other environment. Replication in alternating environments has an unexpected cost in that there is decreased genetic variance that translates into a compromised adaptability for bypassed environments. Arboviruses under strong and continuous positive selection may have unusual patterns of genomic changes, with few or no mutations accumulated in the consensus sequence or with dN/dS values typically consistent with random drift in DNA-based organisms.
Copyright © 2012 S. Karger AG, Basel.