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Rules of engagement: molecular arms races between host and viral genomes

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The Malik lab studies the causes and consequences of genetic conflicts that take place between different genomes (e.g., host-virus interactions) or between components of the same genome (e.g., chromosomal competition at centromeric regions). We are interested in understanding these Red Queen interactions, or “molecular arms races” and how they drive recurrent genetic innovation, from the perspective of both evolutionary biology and human disease. Antagonistic interactions drive host-virus evolutionary arms-races, which often manifest as recurrent amino acid changes (i.e., positive selection) at their protein-protein interaction interfaces. We investigated whether combinatorial or single-residue mutagenesis of positions under positive selection in host antiviral protein could alter or even enhance its restrictive properties. Using such studies, we hope to identify the rules and constraints shaping the evolutionary landscape and potential of antiviral proteins.

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