DOI: 10.1101/478784Nov 27, 2018Paper

Extreme robustness requires extreme phenotypes

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Felipe Rocha, Louis Bernard Klaczko


An outstanding feature of living organisms is their ability to develop in shifting and often perturbing conditions and still yield a defined set of traits with stable phenotypes. Here we show that this ability (canalization, or phenotypic robustness) may be achieved via a possibly universal mechanism that emerges from basic rules relating gene activity and development. First, we demonstrate that phenotypic stability is strongly associated with extreme phenotypes using a comprehensive dataset of reaction norms of plants, animals, and bacteria from the literature1. This association suggests that genetic variation affects robustness mainly through saturation or depletion (and not stabilization) of developmental systems. Second, we build a simple developmental model to assess how genetic variation for gene activity may affect the pattern of phenotypic response of a given trait to perturbations of transcription. The results show that organisms may achieve phenotypic robustness in the absence transcriptional stability by yielding extreme phenotypes. Third, we show that this model may offer a simple and coherent explanation for experimental results (from Crocker et al.2) associating cis-regulatory sequence variation to phenotypic robu...Continue Reading

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