Experimental evolution of RNA viruses

Phylogenomics of virus epidemics

Hosts fight back

Viruses possess the highest known mutation rate per generation. Coupled with huge population sizes and rapid generation times, this means we can observe evolution in real-time. In the lab, we manipulate viral growth, and use ultra-deep sequencing to observe how genomes of viruses mutate and change over time and space.

The fast evolutionary rate of viruses leaves a strong imprint on their genomes. By using a phylogenetic approach it is possible to investigate evolutionary transmission dynamics. These types of studies can aid us in understanding the evolutionary forces that allowed the creation and spread of a viral endemic. We are interested in a broad range of phylogenetic questions on viruses, ranging from the unique genetic changes that occured during diversification of HIV subtypes, to general comparative genomics of various viruses.

It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” The Red Queen, in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass
Viruses rapidly evolve to overcome host defenses. Hosts that are not up to speed, are at a disadvantage - only those hosts that can keep up the pace survive the mighty race. This arms race hypothesis, termed the “Red-Queen hypothesis” is valid for all hosts and all types of pathogens, ranging from mammalian-viruses to bacteria-phage. We are interested in uncovering the unique evolutionary forces that act upon anti-parasite immune genes. This will allow us both to better understand how immunity works, and to uncover new types of immune systems

Research

© 2014 Adi Stern laboratory at Tel-Aviv University

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