Meeting: Catalysis Meeting

What Role, if any, Does Heritable Epigenetic Variation Play in Phenotypic Evolution?

Date1-Apr-2009 ~ 3-Apr-2009
ProjectWhat role, if any, does heritable epigenetic variation play in phenotypic evolution?
SummaryThere is now mounting evidence that heritable phenotypic variation can be generated through a suite of epigenetic mechanisms, even in the absence of genetic variation. Moreover, recent studies indicate that epigenetic variation in natural populations can be independent from genetic variation, and that in some cases environmentally-induced epigenetic changes may be inherited by future generations. Taken together, these results seem to call for an expansion of the Modern Synthesis in evolutionary biology. Yet, we can only guess how inadequate the current theory is, because there is a dearth of studies that have addressed epigenetic questions in a real-world context, as well as a lack of statistical and theoretical approaches for analyzing and predicting the joint effects of genetic and epigenetic variation on phenotypic evolution. To advance our understanding of the ecological and evolutionary relevance of heritable epigenetic variation, the proposed meeting will bring together (1) molecular biologists studying epigenetic processes, (2) evolutionary ecologists with expertise in the experimental study of phenotypic variation and evolution in wild populations, and (3) theoretical population and quantitative geneticists that are experienced in the modeling of evolutionary processes. The aim of the meeting is to explore the phenomenon of inherited epigenetic variation from different perspectives, discuss possibilities for (and also potential difficulties in) collaborative research between molecular biologists and evolutionary ecologists, and work towards the development of a general research agenda for ecological and evolutionary epigenetics.