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      The Evolution and Genetics of Virus Host Shifts


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          Emerging viral diseases are often the product of a host shift, where a pathogen jumps from its original host into a novel species. Phylogenetic studies show that host shifts are a frequent event in the evolution of most pathogens, but why pathogens successfully jump between some host species but not others is only just becoming clear. The susceptibility of potential new hosts can vary enormously, with close relatives of the natural host typically being the most susceptible. Often, pathogens must adapt to successfully infect a novel host, for example by evolving to use different cell surface receptors, to escape the immune response, or to ensure they are transmitted by the new host. In viruses there are often limited molecular solutions to achieve this, and the same sequence changes are often seen each time a virus infects a particular host. These changes may come at a cost to other aspects of the pathogen's fitness, and this may sometimes prevent host shifts from occurring. Here we examine how these evolutionary factors affect patterns of host shifts and disease emergence.

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          Avian flu: influenza virus receptors in the human airway.

          Although more than 100 people have been infected by H5N1 influenza A viruses, human-to-human transmission is rare. What are the molecular barriers limiting human-to-human transmission? Here we demonstrate an anatomical difference in the distribution in the human airway of the different binding molecules preferred by the avian and human influenza viruses. The respective molecules are sialic acid linked to galactose by an alpha-2,3 linkage (SAalpha2,3Gal) and by an alpha-2,6 linkage (SAalpha2,6Gal). Our findings may provide a rational explanation for why H5N1 viruses at present rarely infect and spread between humans although they can replicate efficiently in the lungs.
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            Antagonistic coevolution accelerates molecular evolution.

            The Red Queen hypothesis proposes that coevolution of interacting species (such as hosts and parasites) should drive molecular evolution through continual natural selection for adaptation and counter-adaptation. Although the divergence observed at some host-resistance and parasite-infectivity genes is consistent with this, the long time periods typically required to study coevolution have so far prevented any direct empirical test. Here we show, using experimental populations of the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25 and its viral parasite, phage Phi2 (refs 10, 11), that the rate of molecular evolution in the phage was far higher when both bacterium and phage coevolved with each other than when phage evolved against a constant host genotype. Coevolution also resulted in far greater genetic divergence between replicate populations, which was correlated with the range of hosts that coevolved phage were able to infect. Consistent with this, the most rapidly evolving phage genes under coevolution were those involved in host infection. These results demonstrate, at both the genomic and phenotypic level, that antagonistic coevolution is a cause of rapid and divergent evolution, and is likely to be a major driver of evolutionary change within species.
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              Host phylogeny constrains cross-species emergence and establishment of rabies virus in bats.

              For RNA viruses, rapid viral evolution and the biological similarity of closely related host species have been proposed as key determinants of the occurrence and long-term outcome of cross-species transmission. Using a data set of hundreds of rabies viruses sampled from 23 North American bat species, we present a general framework to quantify per capita rates of cross-species transmission and reconstruct historical patterns of viral establishment in new host species using molecular sequence data. These estimates demonstrate diminishing frequencies of both cross-species transmission and host shifts with increasing phylogenetic distance between bat species. Evolutionary constraints on viral host range indicate that host species barriers may trump the intrinsic mutability of RNA viruses in determining the fate of emerging host-virus interactions.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS Pathog
                PLoS Pathog
                PLoS Pathogens
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                November 2014
                6 November 2014
                : 10
                : 11
                : e1004395
                [1 ]Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
                [2 ]Department of Biology, University of York, York, United Kingdom
                [3 ]Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
                University of Alberta, Canada
                Author notes

                The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Copyright @ 2014

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Pages: 8
                BL and FMJ are supported by a ERC grant (281668, DrosophilaInfection, http://erc.europa.eu/) and a NERC grant ( http://www.nerc.ac.uk/). FMJ is also supported by a Royal Society University Research Fellowship ( https://royalsociety.org/). MAB is supported by an ERC grant (311490, COEVOCON, http://erc.europa.eu/) and CAR is supported by a Royal Society University Research Fellowship ( https://royalsociety.org/). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Evolutionary Biology

                Infectious disease & Microbiology
                Infectious disease & Microbiology


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