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Fitness cost of reassortment in human influenza.

Fitness cost of reassortment in human influenza.
Author Information (click to view)

Villa M, Lässig M,


Villa M, Lässig M, (click to view)

Villa M, Lässig M,

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PLoS pathogens 2017 11 0713(11) e1006685 doi 10.1371/journal.ppat.1006685
Abstract

Reassortment, which is the exchange of genome sequence between viruses co-infecting a host cell, plays an important role in the evolution of segmented viruses. In the human influenza virus, reassortment happens most frequently between co-existing variants within the same lineage. This process breaks genetic linkage and fitness correlations between viral genome segments, but the resulting net effect on viral fitness has remained unclear. In this paper, we determine rate and average selective effect of reassortment processes in the human influenza lineage A/H3N2. For the surface proteins hemagglutinin and neuraminidase, reassortant variants with a mean distance of at least 3 nucleotides to their parent strains get established at a rate of about 10-2 in units of the neutral point mutation rate. Our inference is based on a new method to map reassortment events from joint genealogies of multiple genome segments, which is tested by extensive simulations. We show that intra-lineage reassortment processes are, on average, under substantial negative selection that increases in strength with increasing sequence distance between the parent strains. The deleterious effects of reassortment manifest themselves in two ways: there are fewer reassortment events than expected from a null model of neutral reassortment, and reassortant strains have fewer descendants than their non-reassortant counterparts. Our results suggest that influenza evolves under ubiquitous epistasis across proteins, which produces fitness barriers against reassortment even between co-circulating strains within one lineage.

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