Persistent infection of African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) with SAT-type foot-and-mouth disease viruses: rate of fixation of mutations, antigenic change and interspecies transmission.
The number of nucleotide (nt) substitutions found in the VP1 gene (encoding viral capsid protein) between any two of 16 closely related isolates of foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) has been quantified as a function of the time interval between isolations [Villaverde et al., J. Mol. Biol. 204 (1988) 771-776]. One of them (isolate C-S12) includes some replacements found in isolates that preceded it and other replacements found in later isolates. The study has revealed alternating periods of rapid evolution and of relative genetic stability of VP1. During a defined period of acute disease, the rate of fixation of replacements at the VP1 coding segment was 6 x 10(-3) substitutions per nt per year. Only small differences in the rate of evolution were observed between subsegments within the VP1 gene. The observation of a relatively constant rate of evolution during a disease episode was unexpected. We propose that such constancy may be a consequence of random sampling of mutants from the FMDV quasispecies, followed by their amplification in susceptible hosts (to generate a new quasispecies). Successive sampling and amplification events may result in a steady accumulation of mutations.