RNA viruses exist as quasispecies containing many variants within their populations because of the error prone nature of viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerases. Quasispecies are not a simple collection of individual variants. Instead, internal interactions among variants provide quasispecies with unique evolvability. An example is ‘cooperation’ between wild-type and defective measles viruses, in which co-existence of a wild-type and a mutant genome produces a new phenotype. Such internal interactions presuppose efficient co-transmission of multiple genomes to the same cell, which is achieved by polyploid virions of some virus families or by a high multiplicity of infection. Recent studies have revealed that multiple viral genomes can also be transmitted simultaneously (‘bloc transmission’) by other mechanisms, strengthening the concept of internal interactions among viral quasispecies. Elucidation of the mechanisms of virus evolution, including internal interactions and bloc transmission, may provide rational strategies to solve such important problems of virus infections as drug-resistance, immune evasion, and acquisition of the new tropism and host range.
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