Developmental "noise" -- the imprecision in molecular pathways that leads to minor slip-ups in development -- creates fodder for evolution. That's the conclusion of a linkurl:paper; published online yesterday (July 5) in __Nature__, which shows that a single mutation in bacterial spore formation that affects individuals in different ways generates morphological diversity that can then be genetically fine-tuned to maximize an organism's fitness. "Noise may help in the evolutionary transition from one fate to another," linkurl:Avigdor Eldar; of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, the study's lead author, told __The Scientist__.
B. subtilis cells sporulating into a
forespore (green) and mother-cell (red)

Image: Avigdor Eldar, Caltech
Many genetic mutations often cause different phenotypes in different individuals, even under identical environmental and genetic backgrounds. This phenomenon, known as partial or incomplete penetrance, has been well documented in myriad developmental systems, but its underlying genetic basis and adaptive value have remained...
C. oceanicum twinning into two white
spores within the darker cells

Image: Avigdor Eldar, Caltech

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