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      Environmental Epigenetics and a Unified Theory of the Molecular Aspects of Evolution: A Neo-Lamarckian Concept that Facilitates Neo-Darwinian Evolution

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      Genome Biology and Evolution

      Oxford University Press

      epigenetics, Lamarck, Darwin, natural selection, environment, review

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          Abstract

          Environment has a critical role in the natural selection process for Darwinian evolution. The primary molecular component currently considered for neo-Darwinian evolution involves genetic alterations and random mutations that generate the phenotypic variation required for natural selection to act. The vast majority of environmental factors cannot directly alter DNA sequence. Epigenetic mechanisms directly regulate genetic processes and can be dramatically altered by environmental factors. Therefore, environmental epigenetics provides a molecular mechanism to directly alter phenotypic variation generationally. Lamarck proposed in 1802 the concept that environment can directly alter phenotype in a heritable manner. Environmental epigenetics and epigenetic transgenerational inheritance provide molecular mechanisms for this process. Therefore, environment can on a molecular level influence the phenotypic variation directly. The ability of environmental epigenetics to alter phenotypic and genotypic variation directly can significantly impact natural selection. Neo-Lamarckian concept can facilitate neo-Darwinian evolution. A unified theory of evolution is presented to describe the integration of environmental epigenetic and genetic aspects of evolution.

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          Most cited references 74

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              An epigenetic mutation responsible for natural variation in floral symmetry.

              Although there have been many molecular studies of morphological mutants generated in the laboratory, it is unclear how these are related to mutants in natural populations, where the constraints of natural selection and breeding structure are quite different. Here we characterize a naturally occurring mutant of Linaria vulgaris, originally described more than 250 years ago by Linnaeus, in which the fundamental symmetry of the flower is changed from bilateral to radial. We show that the mutant carries a defect in Lcyc, a homologue of the cycloidea gene which controls dorsoventral asymmetry in Antirrhinum. The Lcyc gene is extensively methylated and transcriptionally silent in the mutant. This modification is heritable and co-segregates with the mutant phenotype. Occasionally the mutant reverts phenotypically during somatic development, correlating with demethylation of Lcyc and restoration of gene expression. It is surprising that the first natural morphological mutant to be characterized should trace to methylation, given the rarity of this mutational mechanism in the laboratory. This indicates that epigenetic mutations may play a more significant role in evolution than has hitherto been suspected.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Genome Biol Evol
                Genome Biol Evol
                gbe
                gbe
                Genome Biology and Evolution
                Oxford University Press
                1759-6653
                May 2015
                26 April 2015
                26 April 2015
                : 7
                : 5
                : 1296-1302
                Affiliations
                Center for Reproductive Biology, School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University
                Author notes
                *Corresponding author: E-mail: skinner@ 123456wsu.edu .

                Associate editor: Dan Graur

                Article
                evv073
                10.1093/gbe/evv073
                4453068
                25917417
                © The Author(s) 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Page count
                Pages: 7
                Categories
                Perspectives

                Genetics

                epigenetics, lamarck, darwin, natural selection, environment, review

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