Coevolution of Sites under Immune Selection Shapes Epstein–Barr Virus Population Structure


Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) is one of the most common viral infections in humans and persists within its host for life. EBV therefore represents an extremely successful virus that has evolved complex strategies to evade the host’s innate and adaptive immune response during both initial and persistent stages of infection. Here, we conducted a comparative genomics analysis on 223 whole genome sequences of worldwide EBV strains. We recover extensive genome-wide linkage disequilibrium (LD) despite pervasive genetic recombination. This pattern is explained by the global EBV population being subdivided into three main subpopulations, one primarily found in East Asia, one in Southeast Asia and Oceania, and the third including most of the other globally distributed genomes we analyzed. Additionally, sites in LD were overrepresented in immunogenic genes. Taken together, our results suggest that host immune selection and local adaptation to different human host populations has shaped the genome-wide patterns of genetic diversity in EBV.

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