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Stochastic variation: from single cells to superorganisms

Summary: Stochastic variation: from single cells
to superorganisms
Maria L. Kilfoil,1
Paul Lasko,1
and Ehab Abouheif1
Department of Biology and Developmental Biology Research Initiative, McGill University,
1205 Avenue Docteur Penfield, Montréal, Québec H3A 1B1, Canada
Received 22 June 2009; accepted 12 August 2009; published online 9 October 2009)
Observed phenotype often fails to correspond with genotype. Although it is well
established that uncontrolled genetic modifier effects and environmental
variability can affect phenotype, stochastic variation in gene expression can also
contribute to phenotypic differences. Here we examine recent work that has
provided insights into how fundamental physical properties of living cells, and
the probabilistic nature of the chemical reactions that underlie gene expression,
introduce noise. We focus on instances in which a stochastic decision initiates
an event in the development of a multicellular organism and how that decision
can be subsequently fixed. We present an example indicating that a similar
interplay between an initial stochastic decision and subsequent fixation may
underlie the regulation of reproduction in social insects. We argue, therefore, that


Source: Abouheif, Ehab - Department of Biology, McGill University


Collections: Environmental Sciences and Ecology