Mapping the Evolutionary Potential of RNA Viruses

Cell Host Microbe. 2018 Apr 11;23(4):435-446. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2018.03.012.


The deterministic force of natural selection and stochastic influence of drift shape RNA virus evolution. New deep-sequencing and microfluidics technologies allow us to quantify the effect of mutations and trace the evolution of viral populations with single-genome and single-nucleotide resolution. Such experiments can reveal the topography of the genotype-fitness landscapes that shape the path of viral evolution. By combining historical analyses, like phylogenetic approaches, with high-throughput and high-resolution evolutionary experiments, we can observe parallel patterns of evolution that drive important phenotypic transitions. These developments provide a framework for quantifying and anticipating potential evolutionary events. Here, we examine emerging technologies that can map the selective landscapes of viruses, focusing on their application to pathogenic viruses. We identify areas where these technologies can bolster our ability to study the evolution of viruses and to anticipate and possibly intervene in evolutionary events and prevent viral disease.

Keywords: deep mutational scanning; evolutionary dynamics; experimental evolution; gain-of-function experiments; microfluidics; phylogenetics; virus evolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genetics, Population / methods
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing / methods
  • RNA Viruses / genetics*
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Virology / methods