Relaxed selection and the evolution of RNA virus mucin-like pathogenicity factors

Joel O. Wertheim, Michael Worobey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Mucin-like regions contribute to pathogenicity in a variety of negative-stranded RNA viruses. These regions are characterized by a preponderance of O-linked glycosylation. They evolve exceptionally rapidly yet maintain their function as pathogenicity factors. Two hypotheses have been proposed to explain this evolutionary conundrum of phenotypic stability in the face of extreme genetic divergence: strong positive selection and relaxation of purifying selection. We determined the strength and direction of selection codon by codon across genes containing these regions and found that purifying selection is relaxed over the mucin-like regions relative to the genes in which they are found. This suggests that so long as these regions maintain sufficient O-linked glycosylation, they are free to evolve rapidly without loss of function as pathogenicity factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4690-4694
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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