Evolution of molecular error rates and the consequences for evolvability

Etienne Rajon, Joanna Masel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Making genes into gene products is subject to predictable errors, each with a phenotypic effect that depends on a normally cryptic sequence. Many cryptic sequences have strongly deleterious effects, for example when they cause protein misfolding. Strongly deleterious effects can be avoided globally by avoiding making errors (e.g., via proofreading machinery) or locally by ensuring that each error has a relatively benign effect. The local solution requires powerful selection acting on every cryptic site and so evolves only in large populations. Small populations with less effective selection evolve global solutions. Here we show that for a large range of realistic intermediate population sizes, the evolutionary dynamics are bistable and either solution may result. The local solution facilitates the genetic assimilation of cryptic genetic variation and therefore substantially increases evolvability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1082-1087
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 18 2011


  • Alternative splicing
  • Chaperones
  • Robustness
  • Transcription
  • Translation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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