Periodic Pattern of Genetic and Fitness Diversity during Evolution of an Artificial Cell-Like System

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Genetic and phenotypic diversity are the basis of evolution. Despite their importance, however, little is known about how they change over the course of evolution. In this study, we analyzed the dynamics of the adaptive evolution of a simple evolvable artificial cell-like system using single-molecule real-time sequencing technology that reads an entire single artificial genome. We found that the genomic RNA population increases in fitness intermittently, correlating with a periodic pattern of genetic and fitness diversity produced by repeated diversification and domination. In the diversification phase, a genomic RNA population spreads within a genetic space by accumulating mutations until mutants with higher fitness are generated, resulting in an increase in fitness diversity. In the domination phase, the mutants with higher fitness dominate, decreasing both the fitness and genetic diversity. This study reveals the dynamic nature of genetic and fitness diversity during adaptive evolution and demonstrates the utility of a simplified artificial cell-like system to study evolution at an unprecedented resolution.

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