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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  2. We consider spatial population dynamics on a lattice, following a type of a contact (birth–death) stochastic process. We show that simple mathematical approximations for the density of cells can be obtained in a variety of scenarios. In the case of a homogeneous cell population, we derive the cellular density for a two-dimensional (2D) spatial lattice with an arbitrary number of neighbors, including the von Neumann, Moore, and hexagonal lattice. We then turn our attention to evolutionary dynamics, where mutant cells of different properties can be generated. For disadvantageous mutants, we derive an approximation for the equilibrium density representing the selection–mutation balance. For neutral and advantageous mutants, we show that simple scaling (power) laws for the numbers of mutants in expanding populations hold in 2D and 3D, under both flat (planar) and range population expansion. These models have relevance for studies in ecology and evolutionary biology, as well as biomedical applications including the dynamics of drug-resistant mutants in cancer and bacterial biofilms.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2023
  3. Pascual, Mercedes (Ed.)
    To study viral evolutionary processes within patients, mathematical models have been instrumental. Yet, the need for stochastic simulations of minority mutant dynamics can pose computational challenges, especially in heterogeneous systems where very large and very small sub-populations coexist. Here, we describe a hybrid stochastic-deterministic algorithm to simulate mutant evolution in large viral populations, such as acute HIV-1 infection, and further include the multiple infection of cells. We demonstrate that the hybrid method can approximate the fully stochastic dynamics with sufficient accuracy at a fraction of the computational time, and quantify evolutionary end points that cannot be expressed by deterministic models, such as the mutant distribution or the probability of mutant existence at a given infected cell population size. We apply this method to study the role of multiple infection and intracellular interactions among different virus strains (such as complementation and interference) for mutant evolution. Multiple infection is predicted to increase the number of mutants at a given infected cell population size, due to a larger number of infection events. We further find that viral complementation can significantly enhance the spread of disadvantageous mutants, but only in select circumstances: it requires the occurrence of direct cell-to-cell transmission through virological synapses, asmore »well as a substantial fitness disadvantage of the mutant, most likely corresponding to defective virus particles. This, however, likely has strong biological consequences because defective viruses can carry genetic diversity that can be incorporated into functional virus genomes via recombination. Through this mechanism, synaptic transmission in HIV might promote virus evolvability.« less
  4. Many tissues undergo a steady turnover, where cell divisions are on average balanced with cell deaths. Cell fate decisions such as stem cell (SC) differentiations, proliferations, or differentiated cell (DC) deaths, may be controlled by cell populations through cell-to-cell signaling. Here, we examine a class of mathematical models of turnover in SC lineages to understand engineering design principles of control (feedback) loops, that may operate in such systems. By using ordinary differential equations that describe the co-dynamics of SCs and DCs, we study the effect of different types of mutations that interfere with feedback present within cellular networks. For instance, we find that mutants that do not participate in feedback are less dangerous in the sense that they will not rise from low numbers, whereas mutants that do not respond to feedback signals could rise and replace the wild-type population. Additionally, we asked if different feedback networks can have different degrees of resilience against such mutations. We found that all minimal networks, that is networks consisting of exactly one feedback loop that is sufficient for homeostatic stability of the wild-type population, are equally vulnerable. Mutants with a weakened/eliminated feedback parameter might expand from lower numbers and either enter unlimited growth ormore »reach an equilibrium with an increased number of SCs and DCs. Therefore, from an evolutionary viewpoint, it appears advantageous to combine feedback loops, creating redundant feedback networks. Interestingly, from an engineering prospective, not all such redundant systems are equally resilient. For some of them, any mutation that weakens/eliminates one of the loops will lead to a population growth of SCs. For others, the population of SCs can actually shrink as a result of “cutting” one of the loops, thus slowing down further unwanted transformations.« less
  5. Epidemiological data about SARS-CoV-2 spread indicate that the virus is not transmitted uniformly in the population. The transmission tends to be more effective in select settings that involve exposure to relatively high viral dose, such as in crowded indoor settings, assisted living facilities, prisons or food processing plants. To explore the effect on infection dynamics, we describe a new mathematical model where transmission can occur (i) in the community at large, characterized by low-dose exposure and mostly mild disease, and (ii) in so-called transmission hot zones, characterized by high-dose exposure that can be associated with more severe disease. The model yields different types of epidemiological dynamics, depending on the relative importance of hot zone and community transmission. Interesting dynamics occur if the rate of virus release/deposition from severely infected people is larger than that of mildly infected individuals. Under this assumption, we find that successful infection spread can hinge upon high-dose hot zone transmission, yet the majority of infections are predicted to occur in the community at large with mild disease. In this regime, residual hot zone transmission can account for continued virus spread during community lockdowns, and the suppression of hot zones after community interventions are relaxed can causemore »a prolonged lack of infection resurgence following the reopening of society. This gives rise to the notion that targeted interventions specifically reducing virus transmission in the hot zones have the potential to suppress overall infection spread, including in the community at large. Epidemiological trends in the USA and Europe are interpreted in light of this model.« less
  6. Abstract Recombination has been shown to contribute to human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) evolution in vivo, but the underlying dynamics are extremely complex, depending on the nature of the fitness landscapes and of epistatic interactions. A less well-studied determinant of recombinant evolution is the mode of virus transmission in the cell population. HIV-1 can spread by free virus transmission, resulting largely in singly infected cells, and also by direct cell-to-cell transmission, resulting in the simultaneous infection of cells with multiple viruses. We investigate the contribution of these two transmission pathways to recombinant evolution, by applying mathematical models to in vitro experimental data on the growth of fluorescent reporter viruses under static conditions (where both transmission pathways operate), and under gentle shaking conditions, where cell-to-cell transmission is largely inhibited. The parameterized mathematical models are then used to extrapolate the viral evolutionary dynamics beyond the experimental settings. Assuming a fixed basic reproductive ratio of the virus (independent of transmission pathway), we find that recombinant evolution is fastest if virus spread is driven only by cell-to-cell transmission and slows down if both transmission pathways operate. Recombinant evolution is slowest if all virus spread occurs through free virus transmission. This is due to cell-to-cell transmissionmore »1, increasing infection multiplicity; 2, promoting the co-transmission of different virus strains from cell to cell; and 3, increasing the rate at which point mutations are generated as a result of more reverse transcription events. This study further resulted in the estimation of various parameters that characterize these evolutionary processes. For example, we estimate that during cell-to-cell transmission, an average of three viruses successfully integrated into the target cell, which can significantly raise the infection multiplicity compared to free virus transmission. In general, our study points towards the importance of infection multiplicity and cell-to-cell transmission for HIV evolution.« less
  7. Mutant evolution in spatially structured systems is important for a range of biological systems, but aspects of it still require further elucidation. Adding to previous work, we provide a simple derivation of growth laws that characterize the number of mutants of different relative fitness in expanding populations in spatial models of different dimensionalities. These laws are universal and independent of "microscopic" modeling details. We further study the accumulation of mutants and find that with advantageous and neutral mutants, more of them are present in spatially structured, compared to well-mixed colonies of the same size. The behavior of disadvantageous mutants is subtle: if they are disadvantageous through a reduction in division rates, the result is the same, and it is the opposite if the disadvantage is due to a death rate increase. Finally, we show that in all cases, the same results are observed in fragmented, non-spatial patch models. This suggests that the patterns observed are the consequence of population fragmentation, and not spatial restrictions per se. We provide an intuitive explanation for the complex dependence of disadvantageous mutant evolution on spatial restriction, which relies on desynchronized dynamics in different locations/patches, and plays out differently depending on whether the disadvantage ismore »due to a lower division rate or a higher death rate. Implications for specific biological systems, such as the evolution of drug-resistant cell mutants in cancer or bacterial biofilms, are discussed.« less