Adaptation in Tunably Rugged Fitness Landscapes: The Rough Mount Fuji Model
Johannes Neidhart, Ivan G. Szendro, Joachim Krug


Much of the current theory of adaptation is based on Gillespie's mutational landscape model (MLM), which assumes that the fitness values of genotypes linked by single mutational steps are independent random variables. On the other hand, a growing body of empirical evidence shows that real fitness landscapes, while possessing a considerable amount of ruggedness, are smoother than predicted by the MLM. In the present article we propose and analyse a simple fitness landscape model with tunable ruggedness based on the Rough Mount Fuji (RMF) model originally introduced by Aita et al. [Biopolymers 54:64-79 (2000)] in the context of protein evolution. We provide a comprehensive collection of results pertaining to the topographical structure of RMF landscapes, including explicit formulae for the expected number of local fitness maxima, the location of the global peak, and the fitness correlation function. The statistics of single and multiple adaptive steps on the RMF landscape are explored mainly through simulations, and the results are compared to the known behavior in the MLM model. Finally, we show that the RMF model can explain the large number of second-step mutations observed on a highly-fit first step backgound in a recent evolution experiment with a microvirid bacteriophage [Miller et al., Genetics 187:185-202 (2011)].

  • Received June 23, 2014.
  • Accepted August 8, 2014.