RNA virus fidelity mutants: A useful tool for evolutionary biology or a complex challenge?

Tiffany F. Kautz, Naomi L. Forrester

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


RNA viruses replicate with low fidelity due to the error-prone nature of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, which generates approximately one mutation per round of genome replication. Due to the large population sizes produced by RNA viruses during replication, this results in a cloud of closely related virus variants during host infection, of which small increases or decreases in replication fidelity have been shown to result in virus attenuation in vivo, but not typically in vitro. Since the discovery of the first RNA virus fidelity mutants during the mid-aughts, the field has exploded with the identification of over 50 virus fidelity mutants distributed amongst 7 RNA virus families. This review summarizes the current RNA virus fidelity mutant literature, with a focus upon the definition of a fidelity mutant as well as methods to confirm any mutational changes associated with the fidelity mutant. Due to the complexity of such a definition, in addition to reports of unstable virus fidelity phenotypes, the future translational utility of these mutants and applications for basic science are examined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number600
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Fidelity
  • Quasispecies
  • Vaccine
  • Virus evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


Dive into the research topics of 'RNA virus fidelity mutants: A useful tool for evolutionary biology or a complex challenge?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this