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The effect of competition and horizontal trait inheritance on invasion, fixation and polymorphism

Abstract : Horizontal transfer (HT) of heritable information or 'traits' (carried by genetic elements, plasmids, endosymbionts, or culture) is widespread among living organisms. Yet current ecological and evolutionary theory addressing HT is scant. We present a modeling framework for the dynamics of two populations that compete for resources and horizontally exchange (transfer) an otherwise vertically inherited trait. Competition infuences individual demographics, thereby affecting population size, which feeds back on the dynamics of transfer. This feedback is captured in a stochastic individual-based model, from which we derive a general model for the contact rate, with frequency-dependent (FD) and density-dependent (DD) rates as special cases. Taking a large-population limit on the stochastic individual-level model yields a deterministic Lotka-Volterra competition system with additional terms accounting for HT. The stability analysis of this system shows that HT can revert the direction of selection: HT can drive invasion of a deleterious trait, or prevent invasion of an advantageous trait. Due to HT, invasion does not necessarily imply fixation. Two trait values may coexist in a stable polymorphism even if their invasion fitnesses have opposite signs, or both are negative. Adressing the question of how the stochasticity of individual processes influences population fluctuations, we identify conditions on competition and mode of transfer (FD versus DD) under which the stochasticity of transfer events overwhelms demographic stochasticity. Assuming that one trait is initially rare, we derive invasion and fixation probabilities and time. In the case of costly plasmids, which are transfered unilaterally, invasion is always possible if the transfer rate is large enough; under DD and for intermediate values of the transfer rate, maintenance of the plasmid in a polymorphic population is possible. In conclusion, HT interacts with ecology (competition) in non-trivial ways. Our model provides a basis to study the influence of HT on evolutionary adaptation.
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Contributor : Viet Chi Tran <>
Submitted on : Friday, September 30, 2016 - 10:03:36 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, March 25, 2020 - 2:40:07 PM
Document(s) archivé(s) le : Saturday, December 31, 2016 - 12:56:03 PM


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Sylvain Billiard, Pierre Collet, Régis Ferrière, Sylvie Méléard, Viet Chi Tran. The effect of competition and horizontal trait inheritance on invasion, fixation and polymorphism. Journal of Theoretical Biology, Elsevier, 2016, 411, pp.48-58. ⟨10.1016/j.jtbi.2016.10.003⟩. ⟨hal-01228437v2⟩



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