Kutnjak, D.,Elena, S. F.,Ravnikar, M.

RNA viruses are one of the fastest-evolving biological entities. Within their hosts, they exist as genetically diverse populations (i.e., viral mutant swarms), which are sculpted by different evolutionary mechanisms, such as mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift, and also the interactions between genetic variants within the mutant swarms. To elucidate the mechanisms that modulate the population diversity of an important plant-pathogenic virus, we performed evolution experiments with Potato virus Y (PVY) in potato genotypes that differ in their defense response against the virus. Using deep sequencing of small RNAs, we followed the temporal dynamics of standing and newly generated variations in the evolving viral lineages. A time-sampled approach allowed us to (i) reconstruct theoretical haplo-types in the starting population by using clustering of single nucleotide polymorphisms' trajectories and (ii) use quantitative population genetics approaches to estimate the contribution of selection and genetic drift, and their interplay, to the evolution of the virus. We detected imprints of strong selective sweeps and narrow genetic bottlenecks, followed by the shift in frequency of selected haplotypes. Comparison of patterns of viral evolution in differently susceptible host genotypes indicated possible diversifying evolution of PVY in the less-susceptible host (efficient in the accumulation of salicylic acid).