A.L. Bozic, C. Micheletti, R. Podgornik and L. Tubiana
Compactness of viral genomes: effect of disperse and localized random mutations
J. Phys. Condensed Matter, 2018, 30 , 084006
Link to online article
Genomes of single-stranded RNA viruses have evolved to optimize several concurrent properties. One of them is the architecture of their genomic folds, which must not only feature precise structural elements at specific positions, but also allow for overall spatial compactness. The latter was shown to be disrupted by random synonymous mutations, a disruption which can consequently negatively affect genome encapsidation. In this study, we use three mutation schemes with different degrees of locality to mutate the genomes of phage MS2 and Brome Mosaic virus in order to understand the observed sensitivity of the global compactness of their folds. We find that mutating local stretches of their genomes' sequence or structure is less disruptive to their compactness compared to inducing randomly-distributed mutations. Our findings are indicative of a mechanism for the conservation of compactness acting on a global scale of the genomes, and have several implications for understanding the interplay between local and global architecture of viral RNA genomes.