New RNAs Phenotypes from Old by Random Recombination and Selection

The emergence of new viral species or strains by evolution is viewed as a great potential danger to human health. Besides mutation, recombination (shuffling of genes) plays an important role in the evolution of viruses – such as HIV or Hepatitis E. There is significant concern that more dangerous viral strains or species may evolve through recombination. However, the complexity of virus-host systems makes the study of this process very difficult. Using a new method she developed, Qing (Sunny) Wang is using ribozymes (specific functional RNAs) as a model for studying the mechanisms of random recombination in viruses. She hopes that this work will shed more light on how viruses evolve through recombination.