Rates of viral evolution are linked to host geography in bat rabies

Streicker, D.G. , Lemey, P., Velasco-Villa, A. and Rupprecht, C.E. (2012) Rates of viral evolution are linked to host geography in bat rabies. PLoS Pathogens, 8(5), e1002720. (doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002720)

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Abstract

Rates of evolution span orders of magnitude among RNA viruses with important implications for viral transmission and emergence. Although the tempo of viral evolution is often ascribed to viral features such as mutation rates and transmission mode, these factors alone cannot explain variation among closely related viruses, where host biology might operate more strongly on viral evolution. Here, we analyzed sequence data from hundreds of rabies viruses collected from bats throughout the Americas to describe dramatic variation in the speed of rabies virus evolution when circulating in ecologically distinct reservoir species. Integration of ecological and genetic data through a comparative Bayesian analysis revealed that viral evolutionary rates were labile following historical jumps between bat species and nearly four times faster in tropical and subtropical bats compared to temperate species. The association between geography and viral evolution could not be explained by host metabolism, phylogeny or variable selection pressures, and instead appeared to be a consequence of reduced seasonality in bat activity and virus transmission associated with climate. Our results demonstrate a key role for host ecology in shaping the tempo of evolution in multi-host viruses and highlight the power of comparative phylogenetic methods to identify the host and environmental features that influence transmission dynamics.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Streicker, Dr Daniel
Authors: Streicker, D.G., Lemey, P., Velasco-Villa, A., and Rupprecht, C.E.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:PLoS Pathogens
Publisher:Public Library of Science
ISSN:1553-7374
ISSN (Online):1553-7374
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2012 The Authors
First Published:First published in PLoS Pathogens 8(5):e1002720
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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