Population genetics of non-genetic traits: Evolutionary roles of stochasticity in gene expression

Katsuhiko Mineta, Tomotaka Matsumoto, Naoki Osada, Hitoshi Araki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The role of stochasticity in evolutionary genetics has long been debated. To date, however, the potential roles of non-genetic traits in evolutionary processes have been largely neglected. In molecular biology, growing evidence suggests that stochasticity in gene expression (SGE) is common and that SGE has major impacts on phenotypes and fitness. Here, we provide a general overview of the potential effects of SGE on population genetic parameters, arguing that SGE can indeed have a profound effect on evolutionary processes. Our analyses suggest that SGE potentially alters the fate of mutations by influencing effective population size and fixation probability. In addition, a genetic control of SGE magnitude could evolve under certain conditions, if the fitness of the less-fit individual increases due to SGE and environmental fluctuation. Although empirical evidence for our arguments is yet to come, methodological developments for precisely measuring SGE in living organisms will further advance our understanding of SGE-driven evolution.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-21
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2015

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: We thank Tomoko Ohta, Dan Graur, Daniel Hartl, Kunihiko Kaneko, Hidenori Tachida, Carlos Melian, Mathieu Camenzind, and Julian Junker for their useful discussions in the early stages of this article. This work was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation Grant to HA. (No. 31003A_125213) and by a grant for young scientists from the Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, Hokkaido University to K.M.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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