A single and purified clone of foot-and-mouth disease virus diversified in cell culture into two subpopulations that were genetically distinct. The subpopulation with higher virulence was a minority and was suppressed by the dominant but less virulent one. These two populations follow the competition-colonization dynamics described in ecology. Virulent viruses can be regarded as colonizers because they killed the cells faster and they spread faster. The attenuated subpopulation resembles competitors because of its higher replication efficiency in coinfected cells. Our results suggest a new model for the evolution of virulence which is based on interactions between components of the quasispecies. Competition between viral mutants takes place at two levels, intracellular competition, and competition for new cells. The two strategies are subjected to density-dependent selection.
Article Addendum to:
S Ojosnegros, N Beerenwinkel, T Antal, MA Nowak, C Escarmis, al et. Competition-colonization dynamics in an RNA virus. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2010; 107: 2108 - 12