Feedback Between Coevolution and Epidemiology Can Help or Hinder the Maintenance of Genetic Variation in Host-Parasite Models

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Ailene MacPhersonS. P. Otto


Understanding if and when coevolution helps maintains genetic variation in hosts of a directly-transmissible pathogen is fundamental to quantifying the prevalence and impact of coevolution on disease epidemiology. Here, we extend our previous work on the maintenance of genetic variation in a classic matching-alleles coevolutionary model by exploring the effects of ecological and epidemiological feedbacks, where both allele frequencies and population sizes are allowed to vary over time. In general, we find that coevolution rarely maintains more host genetic variation than expected under neutral genetic drift alone. When and if coevolution maintains or depletes genetic variation relative to neutral drift is determined, predominantly, by two factors: the deterministic stability of the Red Queen allele frequency cycles and the frequency at which pathogen fixation occurs, as this results in directional selection and the depletion of genetic variation in the host. Compared to purely coevolutionary models with constant host and pathogen population sizes, ecological and epidemiological feedbacks stabilize Red Queen cycles deterministically, but population fluctuations in the pathogen increase the rate of pathogen fixation, especially i...Continue Reading

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