- Mutation accessibility drives the emergence of new influenza strains with fitness advantages.
- Accessible mutations can impact vaccine effectiveness and lead to drug-resistant influenza strains.
Influenza viruses are constantly evolving, and one of the key drivers of this evolution is mutation accessibility.
What is Mutation Accessibility?
Mutation accessibility refers to the ease with which a particular mutation can occur in a virus’s genome. Some mutations are more accessible than others, and these mutations are more likely to be fixed in the virus population.
Scientists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have shed light on the evolution of influenza (flu) virus by introducing the “survival of the accessible” model. This model complements the well-known “survival of the fittest” concept and helps explain how flu viruses undergo constant changes due to genetic mutations. The research, led by Alexander Gunnarsson, Ph.D., and M. Madan Babu, Ph.D., focused on understanding why specific mutations emerge in a population during viral evolution.
The researchers emphasized the role of “variant accessibility” in driving evolution. They found that not all mutations are equally likely to occur due to inherent biases in the genetic replication process. For instance, some mutations are more likely to happen than others, leading to a larger pool of mutant variants with certain alterations. Consequently, surviving variants are more likely to emerge from this accessible pool, even if there may be fitter mutations with lower accessibility.
Factors That Influence Mutation Accessibility
Many factors can influence mutation accessibility. Some of those are mentioned below.
- Virus genome sequence: Some sequences are more prone to mutations.
- Replication environment: Certain environments, like the human body, promote mutations.
Implications of Influenza Evolution
Mutation accessibility has several implications for influenza evolution.
- The emergence of new strains: Easily accessible mutations with fitness advantages lead to new strains.
- Vaccine effectiveness: Common and accessible mutations can evade vaccine-induced immunity.
- Antiviral drug development: Accessible mutations can create drug-resistant virus strains.
- What is mutation accessibility?
Mutation accessibility refers to how easily a specific mutation can occur in a virus’s genome.
- How does mutation accessibility drive influenza evolution?
Highly accessible mutations with fitness advantages lead to the emergence of new influenza strains.
- Can mutation accessibility lead to drug-resistant influenza strains?
Accessible mutations can create drug-resistant influenza strains, affecting antiviral drug development.