Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 70, Issue 1, pp 98–105

Hitchhiking and the Population Genetic Structure of Avian Influenza Virus


DOI: 10.1007/s00239-009-9312-8

Cite this article as:
Chen, R. & Holmes, E.C. J Mol Evol (2010) 70: 98. doi:10.1007/s00239-009-9312-8


Previous studies have revealed a major difference in the phylogenetic structure, extent of genetic diversity, and selection pressure between the surface glycoproteins and internal gene segments of avian influenza viruses (AIV) sampled from wild birds. However, what evolutionary processes are responsible for these strikingly different evolutionary patterns is unclear. To address this issue, we estimated the rate of evolutionary change and time of origin of each segment of AIV sampled globally. Strikingly, the internal segments of the sampled AIV strains possess common ancestors that existed less than 200 years ago. Similarly recent times of origin were observed for each of the individual subtypes within the HA, NA, and NS gene segments. Such a shallow history of genetic diversity suggests an evolutionary model in which the genetic structure of AIV is shaped by a combination of occasional selective sweeps in the HA and NA (and possibly NS) segments, coupled with transient genetic linkage to the internal gene segments.


Avian influenza virusPhylogenyHitchhikingReassortmentNatural selection

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOC 1701 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, Department of BiologyThe Pennsylvania State University, Mueller LaboratoryUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA
  3. 3.Department of PathologyUniversity of Texas Medical BranchGalvestonUSA