Utility of DNA viruses for studying human host history: Case study of JC virus

Andrew Kitchen, Michael M. Miyamoto and Connie J. Mulligan, Utility of DNA viruses for studying human host history: Case study of JC virus
Mol Phylogenet Evol, 46:673-682, 2007-09-06

Abstract [-]: Microbial pathogens, and viruses in particular, can serve as important complements to traditional genetic markers when investigating the population histories of their human host. The range of mutation rates for DNA viruses suggests that DNA viruses can be useful markers of both recent and ancient events in their host histories. Here, we assess the utility of a well known DNA virus, JC virus (JCV), for investigating human history and demography. Using complete coding viral genomes, we confirm the phylogeographic structure of JCV in populations worldwide and provide coalescent estimates of its evolutionary rate under two alternative models of its history. Using these rate estimates, we compare Bayesian skyline plots of population size changes for JCV to those of its human host as estimated with coding mitochondrial genomes of the latter. These comparisons, when combined with other evidence including a log Bayes Factor model test, show that JCV is evolving rapidly and is therefore tracking the recent history of its human host. These results support the hypothesis that post-World War II societal changes are most likely responsible for the recent demographic patterns observed among different regional JCV populations. In sum, fast evolving DNA viruses, such as JCV, can complement RNA viruses to provide novel insights about the recent history and demography of their human host.

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