Phenotypic Plasticity: Molecular Mechanisms and Adaptive Significance
Phenotypic plasticity can be broadly defined as the ability of one genotype to produce more than one phenotype when exposed to different environments, as the modification of developmental events by the environment, or as the ability of an individual organism to alter its phenotype in response to changes in environmental conditions. Not surprisingly, the study of phenotypic plasticity is innately interdisciplinary and encompasses aspects of behavior, development, ecology, evolution, genetics, genomics, and multiple physiological systems at various levels of biological organization. From an ecological and evolutionary perspective, phenotypic plasticity may be a powerful means of adaptation and dramatic examples of phenotypic plasticity include predator avoidance, insect wing polymorphisms, the timing of metamorphosis in amphibians, osmoregulation in fishes, and alternative reproductive tactics in male vertebrates. From a human health perspective, documented examples of plasticity most commonly include the results of exercise, training, and/or dieting on human morphology and physiology. Regardless of the discipline, phenotypic plasticity has increasingly become the target of a plethora of investigations with the methodological approaches utilized ranging from the molecular to whole organsimal. In this article, we provide a brief historical outlook on phenotypic plasticity; examine its potential adaptive significance; emphasize recent molecular approaches that provide novel insight into underlying mechanisms, and highlight examples in fishes and insects. Finally, we highlight examples of phenotypic plasticity from a human health perspective and underscore the use of mouse models as a powerful tool in understanding the genetic architecture of phenotypic plasticity.
Kelly, Scott; Panhuis, Tami; and Stoehr, Andrew, "Phenotypic Plasticity: Molecular Mechanisms and Adaptive Significance" (2012). Zoology Faculty Work. 59.
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