Evolutionary Systems Biology pp 195-224
Toward a Theory of Multilevel Evolution: Long-Term Information Integration Shapes the Mutational Landscape and Enhances Evolvability
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Most of evolutionary theory has abstracted away from how information is coded in the genome and how this information is transformed into traits on which selection takes place. While in the earliest stages of biological evolution, in the RNA world, the mapping from the genotype into function was largely predefined by the physical–chemical properties of the evolving entities (RNA replicators, e.g. from sequence to folded structure and catalytic sites), in present-day organisms, the mapping itself is the result of evolution. I will review results of several in silico evolutionary studies which examine the consequences of evolving the genetic coding, and the ways this information is transformed, while adapting to prevailing environments. Such multilevel evolution leads to long-term information integration. Through genome, network, and dynamical structuring, the occurrence and/or effect of random mutations becomes nonrandom, and facilitates rapid adaptation. This is what does happen in the in silico experiments. Is it also what did happen in biological evolution? I will discuss some data that suggest that it did. In any case, these results provide us with novel search images to tackle the wealth of biological data.