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Keywords:

  • Mutant cloud;
  • neutral networks;
  • quasispecies;
  • RNA secondary structure folding;
  • selection of robustness.

Abstract I investigate the competition between two quasispecies residing on two disparate neutral networks. Under the assumption that the two neutral networks have different topologies and fitness levels, it is the mutation rate that determines which quasispecies will eventually be driven to extinction. For small mutation rates, I find that the quasispecies residing on the neutral network with the lower replication rate will disappear. For higher mutation rates, however, the faster replicating sequences may be outcompeted by the slower replicating ones if the connection density on the second neutral network is sufficiently high. The analytical results are in excellent agreement with flow-reactor simulations of replicating RNA sequences.