DOI: 10.7554/elife.84756 ISSN: 2050-084X

A computational method for predicting the most likely evolutionary trajectories in the step-wise accumulation of resistance mutations

Ruth Charlotte Eccleston, Emilia Manko, Susana Campino, Taane G Clark, Nicholas Furnham
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Medicine
  • General Neuroscience

Pathogen evolution of drug resistance often occurs in a stepwise manner via the accumulation of multiple mutations that in combination have a non-additive impact on fitness, a phenomenon known as epistasis. The evolution of resistance via the accumulation of point mutations in the DHFR genes of Plasmodium falciparum (Pf ) and Plasmodium vivax (Pv) has been studied extensively and multiple studies have shown epistatic interactions between these mutations determine the accessible evolutionary trajectories to highly resistant multiple mutations. Here, we simulated these evolutionary trajectories using a model of molecular evolution, parameterized using Rosetta Flex ddG predictions, where selection acts to reduce the target-drug binding affinity. We observe strong agreement with pathways determined using experimentally measured IC50 values of pyrimethamine binding, which suggests binding affinity is strongly predictive of resistance and epistasis in binding affinity strongly influences the order of fixation of resistance mutations. We also infer pathways directly from the frequency of mutations found in isolate data, and observe remarkable agreement with the most likely pathways predicted by our mechanistic model, as well as those determined experimentally. This suggests mutation frequency data can be used to intuitively infer evolutionary pathways, provided sufficient sampling of the population.

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