Nature Reviews Genetics 9, 965-974 (December 2008) | doi:10.1038/nrg2473

OpinionNeutralism and selectionism: a network-based reconciliation

Andreas Wagner1  About the author


Neutralism and selectionism are extremes of an explanatory spectrum for understanding patterns of molecular evolution and the emergence of evolutionary innovation. Although recent genome-scale data from protein-coding genes argue against neutralism, molecular engineering and protein evolution data argue that neutral mutations and mutational robustness are important for evolutionary innovation. Here I propose a reconciliation in which neutral mutations prepare the ground for later evolutionary adaptation. Key to this perspective is an explicit understanding of molecular phenotypes that has only become accessible in recent years.

Author affiliations

  1. Andreas Wagner is at the Department of Biochemistry, University of Zurich, Building Y27, Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland; the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131, USA; The Santa Fe Institute, 1399 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501, USA; and The Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, Quatier Sorge Bâtiment Génopode, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.


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