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Fitness Trade-Offs and Environmentally Induced Mutation Buffering in Isogenic C. elegans

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Science  06 Jan 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6064, pp. 82-85
DOI: 10.1126/science.1213491

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All Worms Are Not Equal

Why do specific mutations not affect all individuals who inherit them? Casanueva et al. (p. 82, published online 15 December; see the Perspective by Deplancke and Verstrepen) found that prior exposure to mild environmental stimuli and the stimulation of a stress response in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans reduced the detrimental effects of diverse mutations. Moreover, because of interindividual variation in stress signaling, this protective effect was not the same in all individuals. In the absence of mutations, a stronger response increased stress resistance but also delayed reproduction. Such variability among individuals may be beneficial in an unpredictable environment, acting as a “bet-hedging” strategy to diversify risk.

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