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Front Genet. 2012 Aug 7;3:147. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2012.00147. eCollection 2012.

Biphasic patterns of diversification and the emergence of modules.

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  • 1Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA.


The intricate molecular and cellular structure of organisms converts energy to work, which builds and maintains structure. Evolving structure implements modules, in which parts are tightly linked. Each module performs characteristic functions. In this work we propose that a module can emerge through two phases of diversification of parts. Early in the first phase of this biphasic pattern, the parts have weak linkage-they interact weakly and associate variously. The parts diversify and compete. Under selection for performance, interactions among the parts increasingly constrain their structure and associations. As many variants are eliminated, parts self-organize into modules with tight linkage. Linkage may increase in response to exogenous stresses as well as endogenous processes. In the second phase of diversification, variants of the module and its functions evolve and become new parts for a new cycle of generation of higher-level modules. This linkage hypothesis can interpret biphasic patterns in the diversification of protein domain structure, RNA and protein shapes, and networks in metabolism, codes, and embryos, and can explain hierarchical levels of structural organization that are widespread in biology.


biphasic hourglass; competitive optimization; diversification; linkage; module

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