Editor's Summary

2 March 2006

How sex stays in fashion


The origin and persistence of sexual reproduction in living organisms remains one of the deepest mysteries of biology. Although several plausible theories have been proposed, they make predictions that are hard to test in real life. But an experiment run in an artificial gene network model shows that a condition postulated by a leading theory, the mutation deterministic hypothesis, may evolve more easily than was thought. The condition, negative epistasis, is one in which gene mutations are more harmful when combined in the same genome than when separate. In fact the model suggests that negative epistasis can actually evolve as a consequence of sexual reproduction itself.

LetterSexual reproduction selects for robustness and negative epistasis in artificial gene networks

Ricardo B. R. Azevedo, Rolf Lohaus, Suraj Srinivasan, Kristen K. Dang and Christina L. Burch

doi:10.1038/nature04488