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Effect of population size and mutation rate on the evolution of RNA sequences on an adaptive landscape determined by RNA folding


Vahdati, Ali R; Sprouffske, Kathleen; Wagner, Andreas (2017). Effect of population size and mutation rate on the evolution of RNA sequences on an adaptive landscape determined by RNA folding. International Journal of Biological Sciences, 13(9):1138-1151.

Abstract

The dynamics of populations evolving on an adaptive landscape depends on multiple factors, including the structure of the landscape, the rate of mutations, and effective population size. Existing theoretical work often makes ad hoc and simplifying assumptions about landscape structure, whereas experimental work can vary important parameters only to a limited extent. We here overcome some of these limitations by simulating the adaptive evolution of RNA molecules, whose fitness is determined by the thermodynamics of RNA secondary structure folding. We study the influence of mutation rates and population sizes on final mean population fitness, on the substitution rates of mutations, and on population diversity. We show that evolutionary dynamics cannot be understood as a function of mutation rate µ, population size N, or population mutation rate Nµ alone. For example, at a given mutation rate, clonal interference prevents the fixation of beneficial mutations as population size increases, but larger populations still arrive at a higher mean fitness. In addition, at the highest population mutation rates we study, mean final fitness increases with population size, because small populations are driven to low fitness by the relatively higher incidence of mutations they experience. Our observations show that mutation rate and population size can interact in complex ways to influence the adaptive dynamics of a population on a biophysically motivated fitness landscape.

Abstract

The dynamics of populations evolving on an adaptive landscape depends on multiple factors, including the structure of the landscape, the rate of mutations, and effective population size. Existing theoretical work often makes ad hoc and simplifying assumptions about landscape structure, whereas experimental work can vary important parameters only to a limited extent. We here overcome some of these limitations by simulating the adaptive evolution of RNA molecules, whose fitness is determined by the thermodynamics of RNA secondary structure folding. We study the influence of mutation rates and population sizes on final mean population fitness, on the substitution rates of mutations, and on population diversity. We show that evolutionary dynamics cannot be understood as a function of mutation rate µ, population size N, or population mutation rate Nµ alone. For example, at a given mutation rate, clonal interference prevents the fixation of beneficial mutations as population size increases, but larger populations still arrive at a higher mean fitness. In addition, at the highest population mutation rates we study, mean final fitness increases with population size, because small populations are driven to low fitness by the relatively higher incidence of mutations they experience. Our observations show that mutation rate and population size can interact in complex ways to influence the adaptive dynamics of a population on a biophysically motivated fitness landscape.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:2017
Deposited On:23 Feb 2018 13:58
Last Modified:14 Mar 2018 17:46
Publisher:Ivyspring International Publisher
ISSN:1449-2288
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.7150/ijbs.19436

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