skip to main content

Title: Bottleneck, Isolate, Amplify, Select (BIAS) as a mechanistic framework for intracellular population dynamics of positive-sense RNA viruses
Abstract Many positive-sense RNA viruses, especially those infecting plants, are known to experience stringent, stochastic population bottlenecks inside the cells they invade, but exactly how and why these populations become bottlenecked are unclear. A model proposed ten years ago advocates that such bottlenecks are evolutionarily favored because they cause the isolation of individual viral variants in separate cells. Such isolation in turn allows the viral variants to manifest the phenotypic differences they encode. Recently published observations lend mechanistic support to this model and prompt us to refine the model with novel molecular details. The refined model, designated Bottleneck, Isolate, Amplify, Select (BIAS), postulates that these viruses impose population bottlenecks on themselves by encoding bottleneck-enforcing proteins (BNEPs) that function in a concentration-dependent manner. In cells simultaneously invaded by numerous virions of the same virus, BNEPs reach the bottleneck-ready concentration sufficiently early to arrest nearly all internalized viral genomes. As a result, very few (as few as one) viral genomes stochastically escape to initiate reproduction. Repetition of this process in successively infected cells isolates viral genomes with different mutations in separate cells. This isolation prevents mutant viruses encoding defective viral proteins from hitchhiking on sister genome-encoded products, leading to the swift purging more » of such mutants. Importantly, genome isolation also ensures viral genomes harboring beneficial mutations accrue the cognate benefit exclusively to themselves, leading to the fixation of such beneficial mutations. Further interrogation of the BIAS hypothesis promises to deepen our understanding of virus evolution and inspire new solutions to virus disease mitigation. « less
 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Virus Evolution
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Natural selection acts on cellular organisms by ensuring the genes responsible for an advantageous phenotype consistently reap the phenotypic advantage. This is possible because reproductive cells of these organisms are almost always haploid, separating the beneficial gene from its rival allele at every generation. How natural selection acts on plus-strand RNA viruses is unclear because these viruses frequently load host cells with numerous genome copies and replicate thousands of progeny genomes in each cell. Recent studies suggest that these viruses encode the Bottleneck, Isolate, Amplify, Select (BIAS) mechanism that blocks all but a few viral genome copies from replication, thus creating the environment in which the bottleneck-escaping viral genome copies are isolated from each other, allowing natural selection to reward beneficial mutations and purge lethal errors. This BIAS mechanism also blocks the genomes of highly homologous superinfecting viruses, thus explaining cellular-level superinfection exclusion.
  2. Influenza viruses, commonly called flu, can evade our immune system and develop resistance to treatments by changing frequently. Specifically, mutations in their genome cause influenza proteins to change in ways that can help the virus evade our defences. However, these mutations come at a cost and can prevent the viral proteins from forming functional and stable three-dimensional shapes – a process known as protein folding – thereby hampering the virus’ ability to replicate. In human cells, proteins called chaperones can help our other proteins fold properly. Influenza viruses do not have their own chaperones and, instead, hijack those of their host. Host chaperones are therefore crucial to the virus’ ability to replicate. However, until now, it was not known if host chaperones can influence how these viruses evolve. Here, Phillips et al. used mammalian cells to study how host chaperones affect an evolving influenza population. First, cells were engineered to either have normal chaperone levels, elevated chaperone levels, or inactive chaperones. Next, the H3N2 influenza strain was grown in these different conditions for nearly 200 generations and sequenced to determine how the virus evolved in each distinctive host chaperone environment. Phillips et al. discovered that host chaperones affect the ratemore »at which mutations accumulate in the influenza population, and also the types of mutations in the influenza genome. For instance, when a chaperone called Hsp90 was inactivated, mutations became prevalent in the viral population more slowly than in cells with normal or elevated chaperone levels. Moreover, some specific mutations fared better in cells with high chaperone levels, whilst others worked better in cells with inactivated chaperones. These results suggest that influenza evolution is affected by host chaperone levels in complex and important ways. Moreover, whether chaperones will promote or hinder the effects of any single mutation is difficult to predict ahead of time. This discovery is significant, as the chaperones available to influenza can vary in different tissues, organisms and infectious conditions, and may therefore influence the virus' ability to change and evolve in a context-specific manner. The findings are likely to extend to other viruses such as HIV and Ebola, which also hijack host chaperones for the same purpose. More work is now needed to systematically quantify these effects so that we can better predict how specific chaperones will affect the ability of viruses to adapt, especially in pathologically relevant conditions like fever or viral host-switching. In the future, such insights could help shape the design of treatments to which viruses do not evolve resistance.« less
  3. Viruses rely on their host’s translation machinery for the synthesis of their own proteins. Problems belie viral translation when the host has a codon usage bias (CUB) that is different from an infecting virus due to differences in the GC content between the host and virus genomes. Here, we examine the hypothesis that chloroviruses adapted to host CUB by acquisition and selection of tRNAs that at least partially favor their own CUB. The genomes of 41 chloroviruses comprising three clades, each infecting a different algal host, have been sequenced, assembled and annotated. All 41 viruses not only encode tRNAs, but their tRNA genes are located in clusters. While differences were observed between clades and even within clades, seven tRNA genes were common to all three clades of chloroviruses, including the tRNAArg gene, which was found in all 41 chloroviruses. By comparing the codon usage of one chlorovirus algal host, in which the genome has been sequenced and annotated (67% GC content), to that of two of its viruses (40% GC content), we found that the viruses were able to at least partially overcome the host’s CUB by encoding tRNAs that recognize AU-rich codons. Evidence presented herein supports the hypothesis thatmore »a chlorovirus tRNA cluster was present in the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) prior to divergence into three clades. In addition, the MRCA encoded a putative isoleucine lysidine synthase (TilS) that remains in 39/41 chloroviruses examined herein, suggesting a strong evolutionary pressure to retain the gene. TilS alters the anticodon of tRNAMet that normally recognizes AUG to then recognize AUA, a codon for isoleucine. This is advantageous to the chloroviruses because the AUA codon is 12–13 times more common in the chloroviruses than their host, further helping the chloroviruses to overcome CUB. Among large DNA viruses infecting eukaryotes, the presence of tRNA genes and tRNA clusters appear to be most common in the Phycodnaviridae and, to a lesser extent, in the Mimiviridae.« less
  4. Abstract

    Long-range ribonucleic acid (RNA)–RNA interactions (RRI) are prevalent in positive-strand RNA viruses, including Beta-coronaviruses, and these take part in regulatory roles, including the regulation of sub-genomic RNA production rates. Crosslinking of interacting RNAs and short read-based deep sequencing of resulting RNA–RNA hybrids have shown that these long-range structures exist in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV)-2 on both genomic and sub-genomic levels and in dynamic topologies. Furthermore, co-evolution of coronaviruses with their hosts is navigated by genetic variations made possible by its large genome, high recombination frequency and a high mutation rate. SARS-CoV-2’s mutations are known to occur spontaneously during replication, and thousands of aggregate mutations have been reported since the emergence of the virus. Although many long-range RRIs have been experimentally identified using high-throughput methods for the wild-type SARS-CoV-2 strain, evolutionary trajectory of these RRIs across variants, impact of mutations on RRIs and interaction of SARS-CoV-2 RNAs with the host have been largely open questions in the field. In this review, we summarize recent computational tools and experimental methods that have been enabling the mapping of RRIs in viral genomes, with a specific focus on SARS-CoV-2. We also present available informatics resources to navigate the RRI maps andmore »shed light on the impact of mutations on the RRI space in viral genomes. Investigating the evolution of long-range RNA interactions and that of virus–host interactions can contribute to the understanding of new and emerging variants as well as aid in developing improved RNA therapeutics critical for combating future outbreaks.

    « less
  5. Do the immortalized and cryopreserved white blood cells that are part of the 1,000 Human Genomes Project represent a valuable cellular physiological resource to investigate the importance of genome wide sequence variation? While much research exists on the nucleotide variation in the 1,000 Human Genomes, there are few quantitative measures of these humans’ physiologies. Fortunately, physiological measures can be done on the immortalized and preserved cells from each of the more than 1,000 individuals that are part of Human Genome project. However, these human white blood cells were immortalized by transforming them with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV-transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCL)). This transformation integrates the viral genome into the human genome and potentially affects important biological differences among individuals. The questions we address here are whether EBV transformations significantly alters the cellular physiology so that 1) replicate transformations within an individual are significantly different, and 2) whether the variance among replicates obscures the variation among individuals. To address these questions, we quantified oxidative phosphorylation (OxPhos) metabolism in LCLs from six individuals with 4 separate and independent EBV-transformations. We examined OxPhos because it is critical for energy production, and mutations in this pathway are responsible for most inborn metabolic diseases. Themore »data presented here demonstrate that there are small but significant effects of EBV-transformations on some OxPhos parameters. In spite of significant variation due to transformations, there is greater and significant variation among individuals in their OxPhos metabolism. Thus, the LCLs from the 1,000 Human Genome project could provide valuable insights into the natural variation of cellular physiology because there is statistically significant variation among individuals when using these EBV-transformed cells« less