Environmental changes can not only trigger a regulatory response, but also impose evolutionary pressures that can modify the underlying regulatory network. Here, we review recent approaches that are beginning to disentangle this complex interplay between regulatory and evolutionary responses. Systematic genetic reconstructions have shown how evolutionary constraints arise from epistatic interactions between mutations in fixed environments. This approach is now being extended to more complex environments and systems. The first results suggest that epistasis is affected dramatically by environmental changes and, hence, can profoundly affect the course of evolution. Thus, external environments not only define the selection of favored phenotypes, but also affect the internal constraints that can limit the evolution of these phenotypes. These findings also raise new questions relating to the conditions for evolutionary transitions and the evolutionary potential of regulatory networks.

Elsevier/ Cell Press
Trends Genet.

Taute, K, Gude, S, Nghe, P, & Tans, S.J. (2014). Evolutionary constraints in variable environments, from proteins to networks. Trends Genet., 30(5), 192–198. doi:10.1016/j.tig.2014.04.003