Einstein, NYU Researchers Publish "Evolutionary Gem"

Nature's special Darwin issue cites the genetic variation studies of two Academy members.

Aviv Bergman, a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Mark Siegal, an assistant professor at New YorkUniversity’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, are coauthors of a study on genetic variation that was cited by Nature as an “evolutionary gem.” The journal chose 15 studies published over the past decade that “illustrate the breadth, depth, and power of evolutionary thinking” as part of its celebration of the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin. In their study, published in 2003, Siegal and Bergman explored “evolutionary capacitance” which asks, “do species who remain mostly unchanged for millions of years, then change dramatically and suddenly, store the potential for these suddenalterations, unleashing a flood of otherwise hidden variation at times of environmental stress?” The researchers used numerical simulations of complex gene networks and genome-wide expression data from yeast strains in which single genes had been deleted to show that most, and perhaps all, genes hold variation in reserve that is released only when they are functionally compromised. Their findings suggested that evolutionary capacitance goes wider and deeper than a single protein.