Supplementary info from Noise-induced bistability in the quasi-neutral coexistence of viral RNAs under different replication modes. 21 February 2018 8 May 2018

Evolutionary and dynamical investigations into real viral populations indicate that RNA replication can range between the two extremes represented by the so-called ‘stamping machine replication’ (SMR) and ‘geometric replication’ (GR). The impact of asymmetries in replication for single stranded, (+) sense RNA viruses has been mainly studied with deterministic models. However, viral replication should be better described by including stochasticity, as the cell infection process is typically initiated with a very small number of RNA macromolecules, and thus largely influenced by intrinsic noise. Under appropriate conditions, deterministic theoretical descriptions of viral RNA replication predict a quasi-neutral coexistence scenario, with a line of fixed points involving different strands' equilibrium ratios depending on the initial conditions. Recent research into the quasi-neutral coexistence in two competing populations reveals that stochastic fluctuations fundamentally alter the mean-field scenario, and one of the two species outcompetes the other one. In this manuscript, we study this phenomenon for viral RNAs replication modes by means of stochastic simulations and a diffusion approximation. Our results reveal that noise has a strong impact on the amplification of viral RNAs, also causing the emergence of noise-induced bistability. We provide analytical criteria for the dominance of (+) sense strands depending on the initial populations on the line of equilibria, which are in agreement with direct stochastic simulation results. The biological implications of this noise-driven mechanism are discussed within the framework of the evolutionary dynamics of RNA viruses with different modes of replication.