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

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 500

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