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Expected Effect of Deleterious Mutations on Within-Host Adaptation of Pathogens.

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Fonville, Judith M 


UNLABELLED: Adaptation is a common theme in both pathogen emergence, for example, in zoonotic cross-species transmission, and pathogen control, where adaptation might limit the effect of the immune response and antiviral treatment. When such evolution requires deleterious intermediate mutations, fitness ridges and valleys arise in the pathogen's fitness landscape. The effect of deleterious intermediate mutations on within-host pathogen adaptation is examined with deterministic calculations, appropriate for pathogens replicating in large populations with high error rates. The effect of deleterious intermediate mutations on pathogen adaptation is smaller than their name might suggest: when two mutations are required and each individual single mutation is fully deleterious, the pathogen can jump across the fitness valley by obtaining two mutations at once, leading to a proportion of adapted mutants that is 20-fold lower than that in the situation where the fitness of all mutants is neutral. The negative effects of deleterious intermediates are typically substantially smaller and outweighed by the fitness advantages of the adapted mutant. Moreover, requiring a specific mutation order has a substantially smaller effect on pathogen adaptation than the effect of all intermediates being deleterious. These results can be rationalized when the number of routes of mutation available to the pathogen is calculated, providing a simple approach to estimate the effect of deleterious mutations. The calculations discussed here are applicable when the effect of deleterious mutations on the within-host adaptation of pathogens is assessed, for example, in the context of zoonotic emergence, antigenic escape, and drug resistance. IMPORTANCE: Adaptation is critical for pathogens after zoonotic transmission into a new host species or to achieve antigenic immune escape and drug resistance. Using a deterministic approach, the effects of deleterious intermediate mutations on pathogen adaptation were calculated while avoiding commonly made simplifications that do not apply to large pathogen populations replicating with high mutation rates. Perhaps unexpectedly, pathogen adaptation does not halt when the intermediate mutations are fully deleterious. The negative effects of deleterious mutations are substantially outweighed by the fitness gains of adaptation. To gain an understanding of the effect of deleterious mutations on pathogen adaptation, a simple approach that counts the number of routes available to the pathogen with and without deleterious intermediate mutations is introduced. This methodology enables a straightforward calculation of the proportion of the pathogen population that will cross a fitness valley or traverse a fitness ridge, without reverting to more complicated mathematical models.



Host-Pathogen Interactions, Models, Biological, Mutation, Virus Physiological Phenomena, Viruses

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J Virol

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American Society for Microbiology
Medical Research Council (MR/K021885/1)
National Institutes of Health (NIH) (via Mount Sinai School of Medicine (MSSM)) (HHSN272201400008C)
This work was supported by the award of a Fellowship in Biomedical Informatics from the Medical Research Council UK (MR/K021885/1) and a Junior Research Fellowship from Homerton College Cambridge to JMF; and the award of HHSN272201400008C (NIAID Centres of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance) to the Center for Pathogen Evolution.