Risks of genetically engineered crops

Gurian-Sherman, D.

Science 301(5641): 1845; author reply 1845


ISSN/ISBN: 0036-8075
PMID: 14512604
DOI: 10.1126/science.301.5641.1845d
Accession: 016950917

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Considerable uncertainty surrounds the evolutionary rates of and selection pressures acting on arthropod-borne RNA viruses (arboviruses). In particular, it is unclear why arboviruses such as dengue virus show substantial genetic variation within individual humans and mosquitoes yet low long-term rates of amino acid substitution. To address this question, I compared patterns of nonsynonymous variation in populations of dengue virus sampled at different levels of evolutionary divergence. Although nonsynonymous variation was abundant in viral populations within individual humans, there was a marked reduction in the frequency of nonsynonymous mutations in interhost comparisons. Moreover, intrahost genetic variation corresponded to a random pattern of mutation, and most of the sites that exhibited nonsynonymous variation within hosts were invariant at deeper phylogenetic levels. This loss of long-term nonsynonymous variation is the signature of extensive purifying selection such that more than 90% of all nonsynonymous mutations are deleterious. Consequently, although arboviruses are able to successfully adapt to diverse cell types, they are characterized by a high rate of deleterious mutation.