Einstein scientist's finding highlighted as 1 of 15 'evolutionary gems' by Nature

January 12, 2009

A study on genetic variation led by a scientist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University was selected by Nature as one of 15 "evolutionary gems" of the past decade. The 15 studies were selected by Nature in the current issue to "illustrate the breadth, depth and power of evolutionary thinking," as part of the publication's celebration of Charles Darwin's 200th birthday and 150th anniversary of its most celebrated publication "The Origin of Species." Darwin, the father of the theory of evolution, was born on February 12, 1809.

The study, authored by Aviv Bergman, Ph.D., professor and chair of systems & computational biology at Einstein, and Dr. Mark Siegal, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biology at NYU, delves into a concept called "evolutionary capacitance," which addresses stability of species in the face of accumulated genetic variation. A central question of this concept is whether species that remain relatively constant for millions of years, and then undergo swift and significant change, store the potential for these sudden alterations, unleashing a flood of otherwise hidden variation at times of environmental stress.

Early research on fruit flies showed that key proteins involved in the regulation of developmental processes are "chaperoned" by a protein called Hsp90. The production of this Hsp90 increases in times of stress. Hsp90 is occasionally overwhelmed by other processes and the proteins it normally regulates are left to run free, yielding a flurry of otherwise hidden variations.

Drs. Bergman and Siegal explored whether evolutionary capacitance is unique to Hsp90, or rather, found more generally. Using numerical simulations of complex gene networks and genome-wide expression data from yeast strains in which single genes had been deleted, they demonstrated that most, and perhaps all, genes hold variation in reserve that is released only when they are functionally compromised. Their findings, published in 2003, suggested that evolutionary capacitance goes wider and deeper than Hsp90.

This research has inspired additional study into fundamental questions in biology, such as the evolution of sexual reproduction and the evolution of gene and genome duplication, as well as inquiries relevant to biomedical research. Those include the hypothesis that healthy aging among centenarians may be the result of buffering mechanisms against age-related diseases, while cancer may be the result of a breakdown of mechanisms that protect against disease. This hypothesis is currently under investigation.

For more information about Dr. Bergman's research: www.aecom.yu.edu/bergman/projects.html

Source: Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Explore further: Researchers use disordered matter for computation, evolving breakthrough nanoparticle Boolean logic network

Related Stories

Recommended for you

'Material universe' yields surprising new particle

November 25, 2015

An international team of researchers has predicted the existence of a new type of particle called the type-II Weyl fermion in metallic materials. When subjected to a magnetic field, the materials containing the particle act ...

CERN collides heavy nuclei at new record high energy

November 25, 2015

The world's most powerful accelerator, the 27 km long Large Hadron Collider (LHC) operating at CERN in Geneva established collisions between lead nuclei, this morning, at the highest energies ever. The LHC has been colliding ...

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(Phys.org)—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.