Transitions in Understanding of RNA Viruses: A Historical Perspective

  • J. J. Holland
Part of the Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology book series (CT MICROBIOLOGY, volume 299)


This chapter documents that RNA viruses have been known for over a century to be genetically variable. In recent decades, genetic and molecular analyses demonstrate that they form RNA quasispecies populations; the most rapidly mutating, highly variable and genetically versatile life forms on earth. Their enormous populations, rapid replication and extreme genetic plasticity can allow rates of evolution that exceed those of their eukaryotic host populations by millions-fold.


Newcastle Disease Virus Rabies Virus Vesicular Stomatitis Virus Yellow Fever Virus Error Catastrophe 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. J. Holland
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Biology and Institute for Molecular GeneticsUniversity of CaliforniaLa JollaUSA

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