Fitness increase of memory genomes in a viral quasispecies
Arias, A.; Ruiz-Jarabo, C.M.; Escarmís, C.; Domingo, E.
Journal of Molecular Biology 339(2): 405-412
ISSN/ISBN: 0022-2836 PMID: 15136042 DOI: 10.1016/j.jmb.2004.03.061
Viral quasispecies may contain a subset of minority genomes that reflect those genomic sequences that were dominant at an early phase of quasispecies evolution. Such minority genomes are referred to as memory in viral quasispecies. A memory marker previously characterized in foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) is an internal oligoadenylate tract of variable length that became dominant upon serial plaque-to-plaque transfers of FMDV clones. During large population passages, genomes with internal oligoadenylate were outcompeted by wild-type revertants but remained in the mutant spectra as memory genomes. Here, we report a quantification of relative fitness of several FMDV clones, harboring internal oligoadenylate tracts of different length, and that were retrieved at early or late times (passage number) after implementation of memory. The results show that for any given length range of the oligoadenylate, maintenance in memory resulted in an increase in relative fitness, comparable to the increase undergone by the entire population. The fitness increase is in agreement with the Red Queen hypothesis, and implies a replicative memory mechanism. Thus, permanence of memory genomes may be a source of high fitness variants despite their initial low fitness, and despite having remained hidden in mutant spectra. This reinforces the interest of diagnosing minority genomes during chronic human and animal viral infections.