Virus Genes

, Volume 11, Issue 2–3, pp 299–302 | Cite as

Molecular evolution of viruses: An interim summary

  • Yechiel Becker
Part B: Molecular Processes Involved In The Evolution Of RNA And DNA Viruses


The origin and molecular evolution of viruses in this issues is dealt with at two levels: (1) tracing the past evolutionary pathways of viruses belonging to RNA virus families, retroviruses, and small and large DNA viruses; (2) tracing current changes in the RNA and DNA viral genomes that lead to the evolution of new virus mutants. In this interim summary, a time scale for the evolutionary processes is given, based on the accumulated published knowledge concerning the postulated origins of life on planet Earth, and the hypothesis that living cells with RNA genomes may have emerged (the “RNA world hypothesis”) that then developed into cells with DNA genomes in eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells (1–3). The ideas about the evolution of RNA and DNA viruses from ancient cellular RNA and DNA molecules over a period of 3.5 billion years are discussed. It may be possible that by studying virus genes and molecular processes in virus-infected cells, and their involvement in the shaping of the genomes of bacteria, yeast, plants, insects, mammals, and humans, it will be possible to understand the importance of viruses in past evolution and to predict their possible impact on current and future evolutionary trends in biology.

Key words

molecular evolution viruses origin RNA viruses DNA viruses 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yechiel Becker
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Molecular Virology, Institute of Microbiology, Faculty of MedicineThe Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael

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