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Med Sci (Paris). 2016 Jun-Jul;32(6-7):640-5. doi: 10.1051/medsci/20163206029. Epub 2016 Jul 12.

[The CRISPR case, « ready-made » mutations and Lamarckian evolution of an adaptive immunity system].

[Article in French]

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Laboratoire évolution, génomes, comportement, écologie, CNRS université Paris-Sud, UMR9191, IRD UMR 247, avenue de la Terrasse, 91198 Gif-sur-Yvette, France - Université Paris-Diderot, Sorbonne Paris-Cité, Paris, France.


Since genetics has shown that mutation predates selection, biology has developed within the Darwinian paradigm framework. However, a mechanism that produces favorable mutations preferentially in response to adaptive constraints has been recently identified. This mechanism, the CRISPR-Cas adaptive immunity system, is considered as a bona fide example of Lamarckian evolution, even if it only reflects loosely Lamarck's ideas. This unusual evolutionary process is made possible by two prokaryotic properties: i) somatic and germinal cells are not distinct sets of cells; ii) Archae and Bacteria very frequently integrate DNA fragments from the environment, and they therefore have access to a source of "ready-made" useful genetic information. The CRISPR-Cas is a defense system against viruses and plasmids that is based on the integration of genomic fragments of these infectious agents into the host genome, and that protects the host against subsequent infections. Therefore, this mechanism does produce advantageous mutations by integrating DNA from the environment and allowing its transmission to descendants. In conclusion, most of the time evolution relies on purely Darwinian processes, i.e. mutations occurring at random, but in a small minority of cases the occurrence of mutations is more or less biased, and is therefore more or less Lamarckian. Although they are rare, such processes are nevertheless important to our understanding of the plurality of modes of evolution.

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