What Is a Quasispecies?

  • C. K. Biebricher
  • M. Eigen
Part of the Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology book series (CT MICROBIOLOGY, volume 299)


The concept of the quasispecies as a society formed from a clone of an asexually reproducing organism is reviewed. A broad spectrum of mutants is generated that compete one with another. Eventually a steady state is formed where each mutant type is represented according to its fitness and its formation by mutation. This quasispecies has a defined wild type sequence, which is the weighted average of all genotypes present. The quasispecies concept has been shown to affect the pathway of evolution and has been studied on RNA viruses which have a particularly high mutation rate. They (and possibly the majority of other species) operate close to the error threshold that allows maximum exploration of sequence space while conserving the information content of the genotype. The consequences of the quasispecies concept for the new ‘evolutionary technology’ are discussed.


Sequence Space Mutant Spectrum Error Threshold Mutant Distribution Error Catastrophe 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. K. Biebricher
    • 1
  • M. Eigen
    • 1
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Biophysical ChemistryGöttingenGermany

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