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Parallel Evolution in the Emergence of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A Viruses

By Marina Escalera-Zamudio, Michael Golden, Bernardo Gutierrez, Julien Thézé, Jeremy Russell Keown, Loic Carrique, Thomas A Bowden, Oliver Pybus

Posted 16 Jul 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/370015 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-19364-x)

Parallel molecular evolution and adaptation are important phenomena commonly observed in viruses. Here we exploit parallel molecular evolution to understand virulence evolution in avian influenza viruses (AIV). Highly-pathogenic AIVs independently evolve from low-pathogenic ancestors via acquisition of a polybasic cleavage sites (pCS). Why some AIV lineages but not others evolve in this way is unknown. We hypothesise that the parallel emergence of highly-pathogenic AIV may be facilitated by permissive or compensatory mutations occurring across the AIV genome. We combined phylogenetic, statistical and structural approaches to discover parallel mutations in AIV genomes associated with the highly-pathogenic phenotype. Parallel mutations were screened using a new statistical test of mutation-phenotype association and further evaluated in the contexts of positive selection and protein function. The mutational panel we present reveals new links between virulence evolution and other viral traits and raises the possibility of predicting aspects of AIV evolution.

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