Robustness, the maintenance of a character in the presence of genetic change, can help preserve adaptive traits but also may hinder evolvability, the ability to bring forth novel adaptations. We used genotype networks to analyze the binding site repertoires of 193 transcription factors from mice and yeast, providing empirical evidence that robustness and evolvability need not be conflicting properties. Network vertices represent binding sites where two sites are connected if they differ in a single nucleotide. We show that the binding sites of larger genotype networks are not only more robust, but the sequences adjacent to such networks can also bind more transcription factors, thus demonstrating that robustness can facilitate evolvability.
The Robustness and Evolvability of Transcription Factor Binding Sites
Joshua L. Payne, Andreas Wagner
Science 21 February 2014:
Vol. 343 no. 6173 pp. 875-877