Intra-Population Competition during Adaptation to Increased Temperature in an RNA Bacteriophage

Arribas M, Lázaro E. Intra-Population Competition during Adaptation to Increased Temperature in an RNA Bacteriophage. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2021; 22(13):6815.

Evolution of RNA bacteriophages of the family Leviviridae is governed by the high error rates of their RNA-dependent RNA polymerases. This fact, together with their large population sizes, leads to the generation of highly heterogeneous populations that adapt rapidly to most changes in the environment. Throughout adaptation, the different mutants that make up a viral population compete with each other in a non-trivial process in which their selective values change over time due to the generation of new mutations. In this work we have characterised the intra-population dynamics of a well-studied levivirus, Qβ, when it is propagated at a higher-than-optimal temperature. Our results show that adapting populations experienced rapid changes that involved the ascent of particular genotypes and the loss of some beneficial mutations of early generation. Artificially reconstructed populations, containing a fraction of the diversity present in actual populations, fixed mutations more rapidly, illustrating how population bottlenecks may guide the adaptive pathways. The conclusion is that, when the availability of beneficial mutations under a particular selective condition is elevated, the final outcome of adaptation depends more on the occasional occurrence of population bottlenecks and how mutations combine in genomes than on the selective value of particular mutations.

Keywords: adaptation; RNA viruses; bacteriophages; Qβ; molecular evolution; clonal interference; population bottlenecks

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