Virology, Nebraska Center for



Katherine LaTourrette

Hernan Garcia-Ruiz

Date of this Version



LaTourrette, K.; Garcia-Ruiz, H. Determinants of Virus Variation, Evolution, and Host Adaptation. Pathogens 2022, 11, 1039. pathogens11091039


Copyright: © 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (


Virus evolution is the change in the genetic structure of a viral population over time and results in the emergence of new viral variants, strains, and species with novel biological properties, including adaptation to new hosts. There are host, vector, environmental, and viral factors that contribute to virus evolution. To achieve or fine tune compatibility and successfully establish infection, viruses adapt to a particular host species or to a group of species. However, some viruses are better able to adapt to diverse hosts, vectors, and environments. Viruses generate genetic diversity through mutation, reassortment, and recombination. Plant viruses are exposed to genetic drift and selection pressures by host and vector factors, and random variants or those with a competitive advantage are fixed in the population and mediate the emergence of new viral strains or species with novel biological properties. This process creates a footprint in the virus genome evident as the preferential accumulation of substitutions, insertions, or deletions in areas of the genome that function as determinants of host adaptation. Here, with respect to plant viruses, we review the current understanding of the sources of variation, the effect of selection, and its role in virus evolution and host adaptation.