Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 61, Issue 2, pp 192–206 | Cite as

Diverse Evolutionary Trajectories Characterize a Community of RNA-Cleaving Deoxyribozymes: A Case Study into the Population Dynamics of In Vitro Selection

  • Kenny Schlosser
  • Yingfu LiEmail author


Two parallel in vitro selections (denoted Selection A and Selection B) were conducted under different selection-pressure regimes, yielding a diverse community of RNA-cleaving deoxyribozymes. In Selection A, the reaction time was reduced four times (from 5 h to 5 s) over the course of 24 generations, while in Selection B the reaction time was maintained at 5 h for 30 rounds of selective amplification. Sequence alignment was conducted on more than 800 clones assembled from 18 generations that span both selections. Many prominent catalytic sequence classes, including some that extend across both selections, were identified and used to construct fitness landscapes depicting their rise and fall over time. The landscapes from both selections exhibit similar global trends despite differences in population dynamics. Some deoxyribozymes were predominant in the early rounds of selection but gave way to other species that dominated in the middle rounds. Ultimately, these middle classes disappeared from the landscape in favor of new and presumably more fit deoxyribozyme sequence classes. The shape of these landscapes alludes to the presence of many latent deoxyribozymes in the initial library, which can only be accessed by changes in the selection pressure and/or by adaptive mutations. Basic computer simulations provide theoretical corroboration of the experimentally observed pattern of staggered sequence-class transitions across the fitness landscapes. These simulations model the influence of one or more contributing factors, including catalytic rate, folding efficiency, PCR amplification efficiency, and random mutagenesis. This is the first study which thoroughly documents the topography of a deoxyribozyme fitness landscape over many generations of in vitro selection.


Deoxyribozyme Population dynamics RNA cleavage In vitro selection Sequence diversity Reaction time 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences and Department of ChemistryMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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