New York University Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Navigation Skip to Sub Navigation

NYU Biologists Identify Genes That Prevent Changes in Physical Traits Due to Environmental Changes

November 4, 2008
N-124, 2008-2009

New York University biologists have identified genes that prevent physical traits from being affected by environmental changes. The research, which studied the genetic makeup of baker’s yeast, appears in the latest issue of the Public Library of Science’s journal, PloS Biology.

NYU biologists Mark Siegal, an assistant professor, and Sasha Levy, a post-doctoral fellow, who are part of NYU’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, conducted the study.

The researchers sought to understand how organisms develop and function reliably, despite experiencing a range of environmental conditions and genetic differences caused by mutations.

“Most species maintain abundant genetic variation and experience a wide range of environmental conditions, yet phenotypic-or physical-differences between individuals are usually small,” Siegal explained. “This phenomenon, known as phenotypic robustness, presents an apparent contradiction: if biological systems are so resistant to variation, how do they diverge and adapt through evolutionary time?”

To identify genes that buffer environmental and genetic variation, which may influence how novel traits evolve, the researchers examined Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a species of budding yeast. They investigated the molecular mechanisms that underlie its phenotypic robustness and how these mechanisms can be broken to produce differences in physical appearance within the species.

Siegal and Levy sought to identify genes that contribute to phenotypic robustness in yeast by analyzing the differences in their phenotypes in a comprehensive collection of single-gene knockout strains-that is, they removed these genes to determine if the resulting phenotypes were more variable from cell to cell.

They determined that approximately 5 percent of yeast genes, or approximately 300 genes, break phenotypic robustness when knocked out. These genes tend to interact genetically with a large number of other genes, and their products tend to interact physically with a large number of other gene products. When they are absent, the cellular networks built from their interactions are disrupted and physical differences in the species result. In nature, the researchers hypothesized, some individuals might then have physical features that yield an advantage over the others.

“If so, the loss of phenotypic robustness could actually serve an adaptive role during evolution,” Siegal explained.

The research was supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Career Award, which Siegal received in 2007.

This Press Release is in the following Topics:
Research

Type: Press Release


Search News



NYU In the News

NYU Received a Record Number of Applications

Capital New York reported NYU received a record 60,322 applications for the class of 2019, an increase of about 15 percent since last year.

NYU Students Help City Crack Down on Hookah Bars

Capital New York reported that NYU students helped New York City crack down on hookah bars that illegally include tobacco in their hookahs:

Rudin Center Study Says Mass Transit Helps Economic Mobility

The Wall Street Journal wrote about a report by Wagner’s Rudin Center that showed that mass transit could be more important than education in determining economic mobility.

Brennan Center Report Says Campaign Spending Has Jumped

Frontline did a piece about a report by the Brennan Center for Justice that said that campaign spending by outside groups has more than doubled in the last five years.

NYU’s Dorms Ranked Among the Best in the Nation

Hometalk.com ranked NYU’s student residences third in the country in its list of best college dorms.

 


NYU Footer