Spontaneous Mutations Decrease Sensitivity of Gene Expression to Random Environmental Variation in Caenorhabditis elegans

Spontaneous Mutations Decrease Sensitivity of Gene Expression to Random Environmental Variation in Caenorhabditis elegans

Charles F. Baer1, Dee R. Denver

PLoS ONE 5(1): e8750. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008750


L’influence de l’environnement sur le développement de UN animal est égal à ZERO, et l’influence sur les mutations est égale à ZERO. ZERO fois ZERO= ZERO


Background
Biological phenotypes are described as “canalized” if they are robust to minor variation of environment and/or genetic background. The existence of a robust phenotype logically implies that some underlying mechanism must be variable, in the sense of “able to vary”, in order to compensate for variation in the environment and/or genetic effects. Several lines of evidence lead to the conclusion that deleterious mutations predictably render morphological, developmental, and life-history traits more sensitive to small random environmental perturbations – that is, mutations de-canalize the phenotype.

Methodology/Principal Findings
Using conventional dye-swap microarray methodology, we compared transcript abundance in a sample of >7,000 genes between four mutation accumulation (MA) lines of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and the common (unmutated) ancestor. There was significantly less environmental variance in the MA lines than in the ancestor, both among replicates of the same gene and among genes.

Conclusions/Significance
Deleterious mutations consistently decrease the within-line component of variance in transcript abundance, which is straightforwardly interpreted as reducing the sensitivity of gene expression to small random variation in the environment. This finding is consistent with the idea that underlying variability in gene expression might be mechanistically responsible for phenotypic robustness.

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