Quantitative modeling of virus evolutionary dynamics and adaptation in serial passages using empirically inferred fitness landscapes

J Virol. 2014 Jan;88(2):1039-50. doi: 10.1128/JVI.02958-13. Epub 2013 Nov 6.


We describe a stochastic virus evolution model representing genomic diversification and within-host selection during experimental serial passages under cell culture or live-host conditions. The model incorporates realistic descriptions of the virus genotypes in nucleotide and amino acid sequence spaces, as well as their diversification from error-prone replications. It quantitatively considers factors such as target cell number, bottleneck size, passage period, infection and cell death rates, and the replication rate of different genotypes, allowing for systematic examinations of how their changes affect the evolutionary dynamics of viruses during passages. The relative probability for a viral population to achieve adaptation under a new host environment, quantified by the rate with which a target sequence frequency rises above 50%, was found to be most sensitive to factors related to sequence structure (distance from the wild type to the target) and selection strength (host cell number and bottleneck size). For parameter values representative of RNA viruses, the likelihood of observing adaptations during passages became negligible as the required number of mutations rose above two amino acid sites. We modeled the specific adaptation process of influenza A H5N1 viruses in mammalian hosts by simulating the evolutionary dynamics of H5 strains under the fitness landscape inferred from multiple sequence alignments of H3 proteins. In light of comparisons with experimental findings, we observed that the evolutionary dynamics of adaptation is strongly affected not only by the tendency toward increasing fitness values but also by the accessibility of pathways between genotypes constrained by the genetic code.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H5N1 Subtype / genetics
  • Influenza A Virus, H5N1 Subtype / growth & development
  • Influenza A Virus, H5N1 Subtype / physiology
  • Influenza, Human / immunology
  • Influenza, Human / virology
  • Models, Statistical
  • Mutation
  • RNA Viruses / genetics
  • RNA Viruses / growth & development
  • RNA Viruses / physiology*
  • Serial Passage
  • Virus Diseases / immunology
  • Virus Diseases / virology*
  • Virus Replication