Noise-induced bistability in the quasi-neutral coexistence of viral RNAs under different replication modes

Josep Sardanyés, Andreu Arderiu, Santiago F. Elena, Tomás Alarcón

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    © 2018 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved. Evolutionary and dynamical investigations into real viral populations indicate that RNA replication can range between the two extremes represented by so-called ‘stamping machine replication’ (SMR) and ‘geometric replication’ (GR). The impact of asymmetries in replication for single-stranded (þ) sense RNA viruses has been mainly studied with deterministic models. However, viral replication should be better described by including stochasticity, as the cell infection process is typically initiated with a very small number of RNA macromolecules, and thus largely influenced by intrinsic noise. Under appropriate conditions, deterministic theoretical descriptions of viral RNA replication predict a quasi-neutral coexistence scenario, with a line of fixed points involving different strands’ equilibrium ratios depending on the initial conditions. Recent research into the quasineutral coexistence in two competing populations reveals that stochastic fluctuations fundamentally alter the mean-field scenario, and one of the two species outcompetes the other. In this article, we study this phenomenon for viral RNA replication modes by means of stochastic simulations and a diffusion approximation. Our results reveal that noise has a strong impact on the amplification of viral RNAs, also causing the emergence of noise-induced bistability. We provide analytical criteria for the dominance of (þ) sense strands depending on the initial populations on the line of equilibria, which are in agreement with direct stochastic simulation results. The biological implications of this noise-driven mechanism are discussed within the framework of the evolutionary dynamics of RNA viruses with different modes of replication.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number20180129
    JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
    Issue number142
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


    • Complex systems
    • Intracellular viral dynamics
    • Noise-induced bistability
    • Nonlinear dynamics
    • RNA viruses
    • Replication mode

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