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Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2015;31:453-71. doi: 10.1146/annurev-cellbio-102314-112451.

Toward a synthesis of developmental biology with evolutionary theory and ecology.

Author information

1
Department for Evolutionary Biology, Max-Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, 72076 Tübingen, Germany; email: ralf.sommer@tuebingen.mpg.de.

Abstract

The evolutionary conservation of developmental mechanisms is a truism in biology, but few attempts have been made to integrate development with evolutionary theory and ecology. To work toward such a synthesis, we summarize studies in the nematode model Pristionchus pacificus, focusing on the development of the dauer, a stress-resistant, alternative larval stage. Integrative approaches combining molecular and genetic principles of development with natural variation and ecological studies in wild populations have identified a key role for a developmental switch mechanism in dauer development and evolution, one that involves the nuclear hormone receptor DAF-12. DAF-12 is a crucial regulator and convergence point for different signaling inputs, and its function is conserved among free-living and parasitic nematodes. Furthermore, DAF-12 is the target of regulatory loops that rely on novel or fast-evolving components to control the intraspecific competition of dauer larvae. We propose developmental switches as paradigms for understanding the integration of development, evolution, and ecology at the molecular level.

KEYWORDS:

Caenorhabditis elegans; Pristionchus pacificus; dauer development; evo-devo; nuclear hormone receptors

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