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Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2003 Oct;14(5):301-10.

Waddington's widget: Hsp90 and the inheritance of acquired characters.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Health Sciences, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Ryals Public Health Building, 1665 University Boulevard, Birmingham, AL 35294-0022, USA.


Conrad Waddington published an influential model for evolution in his 1942 paper, Canalization of Development and Inheritance of Acquired Characters. In this classic, albeit controversial, paper, he proposed that an unknown mechanism exists that conceals phenotypic variation until the organism is stressed. Recent studies have proposed that the highly conserved chaperone Hsp90 could function as a "capacitor," or an "adaptively inducible canalizer," that masks silent phenotypic variation of either genetic or epigenetic origin. This review will discuss evidence for, and arguments against, the role of Hsp90 as a capacitor for morphological evolution, and as a key component of what we call "Waddington's widget."

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