Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

2015 Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James (Jim) CleavesII, Daniele L. Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Daniel Rouan, Tilman Spohn, Stéphane Tirard, Michel Viso


  • Carlos BrionesEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-44185-5_1290


A quasispecies is a distribution of  mutant genomes centered around one dominant or master sequence. Quasispecies theory was developed by M. Eigen as a general model to understand the dynamics of the first replicative molecules in the context of the origin of information and the early evolution of life (Eigen 1971). Although they were initially conceived as steady-state distributions of infinite size in equilibrium, quasispecies dynamics – characterized by a continuous process of mutant generation, competition, and selection – have also provided an interpretation of the great adaptive potential of RNA viruses (Domingo and Holland 1997). Indeed, experimental evidence has shown that, due to their error-prone replication, different current biological entities behave as quasispecies:  viroids, RNA viruses, and DNA viruses that use RNA as an intermediate molecule during their replicative cycle. The response of the evolving viral quasispecies to selective pressures, e.g., immune...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References and Further Reading

  1. Domingo E, Holland JJ (1997) RNA virus mutations and fitness for survival. Annu Rev Microbiol 51:151–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Eigen M (1971) Self-organization of matter and evolution of biological macromolecules. Naturwissenschaften 58:465–523CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  3. Lauring AS, Andino R (2010) Quasispecies theory and the behaviour of RNA viruses. PLoS Pathog 6:e1001005CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC/INTA)Consejo Superior de Investigaciones CientíficasMadridSpain