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Nat Rev Genet. 2015 Aug;16(8):483-96. doi: 10.1038/nrg3949.

Pervasive robustness in biological systems.

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Institute of Biology of the Ecole Normale Supérieure, CNRS UMR8197, INSERM U124, ENS, 46 rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris, France.
Imperial College London, Department of Life Sciences, Sir Alexander Fleming Building, South Kensington Campus, London SW7 2AZ, UK.


Robustness is characterized by the invariant expression of a phenotype in the face of a genetic and/or environmental perturbation. Although phenotypic variance is a central measure in the mapping of the genotype and environment to the phenotype in quantitative evolutionary genetics, robustness is also a key feature in systems biology, resulting from nonlinearities in quantitative relationships between upstream and downstream components. In this Review, we provide a synthesis of these two lines of investigation, converging on understanding how variation propagates across biological systems. We critically assess the recent proliferation of studies identifying robustness-conferring genes in the context of the nonlinearity in biological systems.

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