Thermal Adaptation in Viruses and Bacteria

Chen, Peiqiu
Shakhnovich, Eugene I.
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A previously established multiscale population genetics model states that fitness can be inferred from the physical properties of proteins under the physiological assumption that a loss of stability by any protein confers the lethal phenotype to an organism. Here we develop this model further by positing that replication rate (fitness) of a bacterial or viral strain directly depends on the copy number of folded proteins which determine its replication rate. Using this model, and both numerical and analytical approaches, we studied the adaptation process of bacteria and viruses at varied environmental temperatures. We found that a broad distribution of protein stabilities observed in the model and in experiment is the key determinant of thermal response for viruses and bacteria. Our results explain most of the earlier experimental observations: striking asymmetry of thermal response curves, the absence of evolutionary trade-off which was expected but not found in experiments, correlation between denaturation temperature for several protein families and the Optimal Growth Temperature (OGT) of their host organisms, and proximity of bacterial or viral OGTs to their evolutionary temperatures. Our theory quantitatively and with high accuracy described thermal response curves for 35 bacterial species using, for each species, only two adjustable parameters, the number of replication rate determining genes and energy barrier for metabolic reactions.
Quantitative Biology - Biomolecules, Quantitative Biology - Populations and Evolution