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Genetics. 2002 Oct;162(2):533-42.

Molecular basis of adaptive convergence in experimental populations of RNA viruses.

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  • 1Institut Cavanilles de Biodiversitat i Biologia Evolutiva and Departament de Genètica, Universitat de València, Spain.


Characterizing the molecular basis of adaptation is one of the most important goals in modern evolutionary genetics. Here, we report a full-genome sequence analysis of 21 independent populations of vesicular stomatitis ribovirus evolved on the same cell type but under different demographic regimes. Each demographic regime differed in the effective viral population size. Evolutionary convergences are widespread both at synonymous and nonsynonymous replacements as well as in an intergenic region. We also found evidence for epistasis among sites of the same and different loci. We explain convergences as the consequence of four factors: (1) environmental homogeneity that supposes an identical challenge for each population, (2) structural constraints within the genome, (3) epistatic interactions among sites that create the observed pattern of covariation, and (4) the phenomenon of clonal interference among competing genotypes carrying different beneficial mutations. Using these convergences, we have been able to estimate the fitness contribution of the identified mutations and epistatic groups. Keeping in mind statistical uncertainties, these estimates suggest that along with several beneficial mutations of major effect, many other mutations got fixed as part of a group of epistatic mutations.

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