, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 165-169

Exploring phenotype space through neutral evolution

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Abstract

RNA secondary-structure folding algorithms predict the existence of connected networks of RNA sequences with identical secondary structures. Fitness landscapes that are based on the mapping between RNA sequence and RNA secondary structure hence have many neutral paths. A neutral walk on these fitness landscapes gives access to a virtually unlimited number of secondary structures that are a single point mutation from the neutral path. This shows that neutral evolution explores phenotype space and can play a role in adaptation.