Variability in the mutation rates of RNA viruses

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It is well established that RNA viruses show extremely high mutation rates, but less attention has been paid to the fact that their mutation rates also vary strongly, from 10-6 to 10-4 substitutions per nucleotide per cell infection. The causes explaining this variability are still poorly understood, but candidate factors are the viral genome size and polarity, host-specific gene expression patterns, or the intracellular environment. Differences between animal and plant viruses, or between arthropod-borne and directly transmitted viruses have also been postulated. Finally, RNA viruses may be able to regulate the rate at which new mutations spread in the population by modifying features of the viral infection cycle, such as lysis time.

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