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Keywords:

  • Adaptation;
  • extinction;
  • fitness;
  • models/simulations;
  • mutations

Viral particles (virions) are made of genomic material packaged with proteins, drawn from the pool of proteins in the parent cell. It is well known that when virion concentrations are high, cells can be coinfected with multiple viral strains that can complement each other. Viral genomes can then interact with proteins derived from different strains, in a phenomenon known as phenotypic mixing. But phenotypic mixing is actually far more common: viruses mutate very often, and each time a mutation occurs, the parent cell contains different types of viral genomes. Due to phenotypic mixing, changes in viral phenotypes can be shifted by a generation from the mutations that cause them. In the regime of evolutionary invasion and escape, when mutations are crucial for the virus to survive, this timing can have a large influence on the probability of emergence of an adapted strain. Modeling the dynamics of viral evolution in these contexts thus requires attention to the mutational mechanism and the determinants of fitness.