Arbeitsgruppe Meyer


Viruses have to adapt to changing environmental conditions or vanish. This means viral evolution is an ongoing process that relies on the imprecise replication of viral genomes to adapt to environmental changes followed by a selection of mutations or variants that are better adapted to the new situation. Evolution is driven by the viral polymerase, which is 2-4 orders of magnitude above that of eukaryotes, paired with very short replication cycles. This error rate is inversely correlated to the viral genome size. Mutations occur randomly across the genome and during replication. During viral replication, individually generated genomes can acquire different mutations and a diverse group of genomes with slightly different features can form, all of which can influence the course of infection. Initially, the group of viral genomes was coined a “quasispecies” but now is often referred to as a genetic cloud making up the viral population within a host. If a specific genome contains one or more beneficial mutations to a given environment and therefore is a fitness variant, it will quickly become the dominant version of the population These changes often ensure the successful transmission to a new host, where the evolutionary process continues.

Our lab focuses on RNA viruses and their constraints of viral evolution on a molecular level. Put as a simple question: Why do viruses evolve the way they do and not in other ways?

For this, we look at single mutations, secondary RNA structures, genome organisation, enzymatic functions and cellular pathways. To help us address this question, we use a diverse set of methods, such as reverse genetics systems,  Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), proteomics or classical virological methods.

With all this gained knowledge we aim to be able to better understand the evolutionary paths viruses take in different situations. At the same time, we look for ways to explore these viral features to turn them into antiviral strategies. 

Letzte Änderung: 15.03.2023 - Ansprechpartner:

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