Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.
  • New inferences from tree shape: numbers of missing taxa and population growth rates.

    16 October 2018

    The relative positions of branching events in a phylogeny contain information about evolutionary and population dynamic processes. We provide new summary statistics of branching event times and describe how these statistics can be used to infer rates of species diversification from interspecies trees or rates of population growth from intraspecies trees. We also introduce a phylogenetic method for estimating the level of taxon sampling in a clade. Different evolutionary models and different sampling regimes can produce similar patterns of branching events, so it is important to consider explicitly the model assumptions involved when making evolutionary inferences. Results of an analysis of the phylogeny of the mosquito-borne flaviviruses suggest that there could be several thousand currently unidentified viruses in this clade.

  • Exploring the demographic history of DNA sequences using the generalized skyline plot.

    16 October 2018

    We present an intuitive visual framework, the generalized skyline plot, to explore the demographic history of sampled DNA sequences. This approach is based on a genealogy inferred from the sequences and provides a nonparametric estimate of effective population size through time. In contrast to previous related procedures, the generalized skyline plot is more applicable to cases where the underlying tree is not fully resolved and the data is not highly variable. This is achieved by the grouping of adjacent coalescent intervals. We employ a small-sample Akaike information criterion to objectively choose the optimal grouping strategy. We investigate the performance of our approach using simulation and subsequently apply it to HIV-1 sequences from central Africa and mtDNA sequences from red pandas.

  • Phylogenetic clustering of hepatitis C virus among people who inject drugs in Vancouver, Canada.

    16 October 2018

    Little is known about factors associated with hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission among people who inject drugs (PWID). Phylogenetic clustering and associated factors were evaluated among PWID in Vancouver, Canada. Data were derived from the Vancouver Injection Drug Users Study. Participants who were HCV antibody-positive at enrolment and those with HCV antibody seroconversion during follow-up (1996 to 2012) were tested for HCV RNA and sequenced (Core-E2 region). Phylogenetic trees were inferred using maximum likelihood analysis and clusters were identified using ClusterPicker (90% bootstrap threshold, 0.05 genetic distance threshold). Factors associated with clustering were assessed using logistic regression. Among 655 eligible participants, HCV genotype prevalence was: G1a: 48% (n=313), G1b: 6% (n=41), G2a: 3% (n=20), G2b: 7% (n=46), G3a: 33% (n=213), G4a: <1% (n=4), G6a: 1% (n=8), G6e: <1% (n=1), and unclassifiable: 1% (n=9). The mean age was 36 years, 162 (25%) were female, and 164 (25%) were HIV+. Among 501 participants with HCV G1a and G3a, 31% (n=156) were in a pair/cluster. Factors independently associated with phylogenetic clustering included: age <40 (versus age≥40, adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=1.64; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.03, 2.63), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection (AOR=1.82; 95% CI 1.18, 2.81), HCV seroconversion (AOR=3.05; 95% CI 1.40, 6.66), and recent syringe borrowing (AOR 1.59; 95% CI 1.07, 2.36).In this sample of PWID, one-third demonstrated phylogenetic clustering. Factors independently associated with phylogenetic clustering included younger age, recent HCV seroconversion, prevalent HIV infection, and recent syringe borrowing. Strategies to enhance the delivery of prevention and/or treatment strategies to those with HIV and recent HCV seroconversion should be explored, given an increased likelihood of HCV transmission in these subpopulations.

  • Occurrence and reassortment of avian influenza A (H7N9) viruses derived from coinfected birds in China.

    16 October 2018

    Over the course of two waves of infection, H7N9 avian influenza A virus has caused 436 human infections and claimed 170 lives in China as of July 2014. To investigate the prevalence and genetic diversity of H7N9, we surveyed avian influenza viruses in poultry in Jiangsu province within the outbreak epicenter. We found frequent occurrence of H7N9/H9N2 coinfection in chickens. Molecular clock phylogenetic analysis confirms coinfection by H7N9/H9N2 viruses and also reveals that the identity of the H7N9 outbreak lineage is confounded by ongoing reassortment between outbreak viruses and diverse H9N2 viruses in domestic birds. Experimental inoculation of a coinfected sample in cell culture yielded two reassortant H7N9 strains with polymerase segments from the original H9N2 strain. Ongoing reassortment between the H7N9 outbreak lineage and diverse H9N2 viruses may generate new strains with the potential to infect humans, highlighting the need for continued viral surveillance in poultry and humans.We found frequent occurrence of H7N9/H9N2 coinfection in chickens. The H7N9 outbreak lineage is confounded by ongoing reassortment between H7N9 and H9N2 viruses. The importance of H9N2 viruses as the source of novel avian influenza virus infections in humans requires continuous attention.

  • Estimating reassortment rates in co-circulating Eurasian swine influenza viruses.

    16 October 2018

    Swine have often been considered as a mixing vessel for different influenza strains. In order to assess their role in more detail, we undertook a retrospective sequencing study to detect and characterize the reassortants present in European swine and to estimate the rate of reassortment between H1N1, H1N2 and H3N2 subtypes with Eurasian (avian-like) internal protein-coding segments. We analysed 69 newly obtained whole genome sequences of subtypes H1N1-H3N2 from swine influenza viruses sampled between 1982 and 2008, using Illumina and 454 platforms. Analyses of these genomes, together with previously published genomes, revealed a large monophyletic clade of Eurasian swine-lineage polymerase segments containing H1N1, H1N2 and H3N2 subtypes. We subsequently examined reassortments between the haemagglutinin and neuraminidase segments and estimated the reassortment rates between lineages using a recently developed evolutionary analysis method. High rates of reassortment between H1N2 and H1N1 Eurasian swine lineages were detected in European strains, with an average of one reassortment every 2-3 years. This rapid reassortment results from co-circulating lineages in swine, and in consequence we should expect further reassortments between currently circulating swine strains and the recent swine-origin H1N1v pandemic strain.

  • Viral mutation and substitution: units and levels.

    16 October 2018

    Viruses evolve within a hierarchy of organisational levels, from cells to host species. We discuss how these nested population structures complicate the meaning and interpretation of two apparently simple evolutionary concepts: mutation rate and substitution rate. We discuss the units in which these fundamental processes should be measured, and explore why, even for the same virus, mutation and substitution can occur at very different tempos at different biological levels. In addition, we explore the ability of whole genome evolutionary analyses to distinguish between natural selection and other population genetic processes. A better understanding of the complexities underlying the molecular evolution of viruses in natural populations is needed before accurate predictions of viral evolution can be made.

  • Full-length characterization of hepatitis C virus subtype 3a reveals novel hypervariable regions under positive selection during acute infection.

    16 October 2018

    Hepatitis C virus subtype 3a is a highly prevalent and globally distributed strain that is often associated with infection via injection drug use. This subtype exhibits particular phenotypic characteristics. In spite of this, detailed genetic analysis of this subtype has rarely been performed. We performed full-length viral sequence analysis in 18 patients with chronic HCV subtype 3a infection and assessed genomic viral variability in comparison to other HCV subtypes. Two novel regions of intragenotypic hypervariability within the envelope protein E2, of HCV genotype 3a, were identified. We named these regions HVR495 and HVR575. They consisted of flanking conserved hydrophobic amino acids and central variable residues. A 5-amino-acid insertion found only in genotype 3a and a putative glycosylation site is contained within HVR575. Evolutionary analysis of E2 showed that positively selected sites within genotype 3a infection were largely restricted to HVR1, HVR495, and HVR575. Further analysis of clonal viral populations within single hosts showed that viral variation within HVR495 and HVR575 were subject to intrahost positive selecting forces. Longitudinal analysis of four patients with acute HCV subtype 3a infection sampled at multiple time points showed that positively selected mutations within HVR495 and HVR575 arose early during primary infection. HVR495 and HVR575 were not present in HCV subtypes 1a, 1b, 2a, or 6a. Some variability that was not subject to positive selection was present in subtype 4a HVR575. Further defining the functional significance of these regions may have important implications for genotype 3a E2 virus-receptor interactions and for vaccine studies that aim to induce cross-reactive anti-E2 antibodies.

  • Evolution of the human immunodeficiency virus envelope gene is dominated by purifying selection.

    16 October 2018

    The evolution of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) during chronic infection involves the rapid, continuous turnover of genetic diversity. However, the role of natural selection, relative to random genetic drift, in governing this process is unclear. We tested a stochastic model of genetic drift using partial envelope sequences sampled longitudinally in 28 infected children. In each case the Bayesian posterior (empirical) distribution of coalescent genealogies was estimated using Markov chain Monte Carlo methods. Posterior predictive simulation was then used to generate a null distribution of genealogies assuming neutrality, with the null and empirical distributions compared using four genealogy-based summary statistics sensitive to nonneutral evolution. Because both null and empirical distributions were generated within a coalescent framework, we were able to explicitly account for the confounding influence of demography. From the distribution of corrected P-values across patients, we conclude that empirical genealogies are more asymmetric than expected if evolution is driven by mutation and genetic drift only, with an excess of low-frequency polymorphisms in the population. This indicates that although drift may still play an important role, natural selection has a strong influence on the evolution of HIV-1 envelope. A negative relationship between effective population size and substitution rate indicates that as the efficacy of selection increases, a smaller proportion of mutations approach fixation in the population. This suggests the presence of deleterious mutations. We therefore conclude that intrahost HIV-1 evolution in envelope is dominated by purifying selection against low-frequency deleterious mutations that do not reach fixation.