Neutral Processes (neutral + process)

Distribution by Scientific Domains

Selected Abstracts

Enzymatic deconstruction of xylan for biofuel production

GCB BIOENERGY, Issue 1 2009
Abstract The combustion of fossil-derived fuels has a significant impact on atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and correspondingly is an important contributor to anthropogenic global climate change. Plants have evolved photosynthetic mechanisms in which solar energy is used to fix CO2 into carbohydrates. Thus, combustion of biofuels, derived from plant biomass, can be considered a potentially carbon neutral process. One of the major limitations for efficient conversion of plant biomass to biofuels is the recalcitrant nature of the plant cell wall, which is composed mostly of lignocellulosic materials (lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose). The heteropolymer xylan represents the most abundant hemicellulosic polysaccharide and is composed primarily of xylose, arabinose, and glucuronic acid. Microbes have evolved a plethora of enzymatic strategies for hydrolyzing xylan into its constituent sugars for subsequent fermentation to biofuels. Therefore, microorganisms are considered an important source of biocatalysts in the emerging biofuel industry. To produce an optimized enzymatic cocktail for xylan deconstruction, it will be valuable to gain insight at the molecular level of the chemical linkages and the mechanisms by which these enzymes recognize their substrates and catalyze their reactions. Recent advances in genomics, proteomics, and structural biology have revolutionized our understanding of the microbial xylanolytic enzymes. This review focuses on current understanding of the molecular basis for substrate specificity and catalysis by enzymes involved in xylan deconstruction. [source]

A niche for neutrality

Peter B. Adler
Abstract Ecologists now recognize that controversy over the relative importance of niches and neutrality cannot be resolved by analyzing species abundance patterns. Here, we use classical coexistence theory to reframe the debate in terms of stabilizing mechanisms (niches) and fitness equivalence (neutrality). The neutral model is a special case where stabilizing mechanisms are absent and species have equivalent fitness. Instead of asking whether niches or neutral processes structure communities, we advocate determining the degree to which observed diversity reflects strong stabilizing mechanisms overcoming large fitness differences or weak stabilization operating on species of similar fitness. To answer this question, we propose combining data on per capita growth rates with models to: (i) quantify the strength of stabilizing processes; (ii) quantify fitness inequality and compare it with stabilization; and (iii) manipulate frequency dependence in growth to test the consequences of stabilization and fitness equivalence for coexistence. [source]


EVOLUTION, Issue 5 2006
Stephen R. Proulx
Abstract One of the striking observations from recent whole-genome comparisons is that changes in the number of specialized genes in existing gene families, as opposed to novel taxon-specific gene families, are responsible for the majority of the difference in genome composition between major taxa. Previous models of duplicate gene evolution focused primarily on the role that neutral processes can play in evolutionary divergence after the duplicates are already fixed in the population. By instead including the entire cycle of duplication and divergence, we show that specialized functions are most likely to evolve through strong selection acting on segregating alleles at a single locus, even before the duplicate arises. We show that the fitness relationships that allow divergent alleles to evolve at a single locus largely overlap with the conditions that allow divergence of previously duplicated genes. Thus, a solution to the paradox of the origin of organismal complexity via the expansion of gene families exists in the form of the deterministic spread of novel duplicates via natural selection. [source]

Evidence for selection on coloration in a Panamanian poison frog: a coalescent-based approach

Jason L. Brown
Abstract Aim, The strawberry poison frog, Oophaga pumilio, has undergone a remarkable radiation of colour morphs in the Bocas del Toro archipelago in Panama. This species shows extreme variation in colour and pattern between populations that have been geographically isolated for < 10,000 years. While previous research has suggested the involvement of divergent selection, to date no quantitative test has examined this hypothesis. Location, Bocas del Toro archipelago, Panama. Methods, We use a combination of population genetics, phylogeography and phenotypic analyses to test for divergent selection in coloration in O. pumilio. Tissue samples of 88 individuals from 15 distinct populations were collected. Using these data, we developed a gene tree using the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) d-loop region. Using parameters derived from our mtDNA phylogeny, we predicted the coalescence of a hypothetical nuclear gene underlying coloration. We collected spectral reflectance and body size measurements on 94 individuals from four of the populations and performed a quantitative analysis of phenotypic divergence. Results, The mtDNA d-loop tree revealed considerable polyphyly across populations. Coalescent reconstructions of gene trees within population trees revealed incomplete genotypic sorting among populations. The quantitative analysis of phenotypic divergence revealed complete lineage sorting by colour, but not by body size: populations showed non-overlapping variation in spectral reflectance measures of body coloration, while variation in body size did not separate populations. Simulations of the coalescent using parameter values derived from our empirical analyses demonstrated that the level of sorting among populations seen in colour cannot reasonably be attributed to drift. Main conclusions, These results imply that divergence in colour, but not body size, is occurring at a faster rate than expected under neutral processes. Our study provides the first quantitative support for the claim that strong diversifying selection underlies colour variation in the strawberry poison frog. [source]

Selection for individual recognition and the evolution of polymorphic identity signals in Polistes paper wasps

Abstract Individual recognition (IR) requires individuals to uniquely identify their social partners based on phenotypic variation. Because IR is so specific, distinctive phenotypes that stand out from the crowd facilitate efficient recognition. Over time, the benefits of unique appearances are predicted to produce a correlation between IR and phenotypic variation. Here, we test whether there is an association between elevated phenotypic polymorphism and IR in paper wasps. Previous work has shown that Polistes fuscatus use variable colour patterns for IR. We test whether two less variable wasp species, Polistes dominulus and Polistes metricus, are capable of IR. As predicted, neither species is capable of IR, suggesting that highly variable colour patterns are confined to Polistes species with IR. This association suggests that elevated phenotypic variation in taxa with IR may be the result of selection for identity signals rather than neutral processes. Given that IR is widespread among social taxa, selection for identity signalling may be an underappreciated mechanism for the origin and maintenance of polymorphism. [source]

The common patterns of nature

Abstract We typically observe large-scale outcomes that arise from the interactions of many hidden, small-scale processes. Examples include age of disease onset, rates of amino acid substitutions and composition of ecological communities. The macroscopic patterns in each problem often vary around a characteristic shape that can be generated by neutral processes. A neutral generative model assumes that each microscopic process follows unbiased or random stochastic fluctuations: random connections of network nodes; amino acid substitutions with no effect on fitness; species that arise or disappear from communities randomly. These neutral generative models often match common patterns of nature. In this paper, I present the theoretical background by which we can understand why these neutral generative models are so successful. I show where the classic patterns come from, such as the Poisson pattern, the normal or Gaussian pattern and many others. Each classic pattern was often discovered by a simple neutral generative model. The neutral patterns share a special characteristic: they describe the patterns of nature that follow from simple constraints on information. For example, any aggregation of processes that preserves information only about the mean and variance attracts to the Gaussian pattern; any aggregation that preserves information only about the mean attracts to the exponential pattern; any aggregation that preserves information only about the geometric mean attracts to the power law pattern. I present a simple and consistent informational framework of the common patterns of nature based on the method of maximum entropy. This framework shows that each neutral generative model is a special case that helps to discover a particular set of informational constraints; those informational constraints define a much wider domain of non-neutral generative processes that attract to the same neutral pattern. [source]

Parallel changes in genetic diversity and species diversity following a natural disturbance

Abstract We examined the spatial and temporal variation of species diversity and genetic diversity in a metacommunity comprising 16 species of freshwater gastropods. We monitored species abundance at five localities of the Ain river floodplain in southeastern France, over a period of four years. Using 190 AFLP loci, we monitored the genetic diversity of Radix balthica, one of the most abundant gastropod species of the metacommunity, twice during that period. An exceptionally intense drought occurred during the last two years and differentially affected the study sites. This allowed us to test the effect of natural disturbances on changes in both genetic and species diversity. Overall, local (alpha) diversity declined as reflected by lower values of gene diversity HS and evenness. In parallel, the among-sites (beta) diversity increased at both the genetic (FST) and species (FSTC) levels. These results suggest that disturbances can lead to similar changes in genetic and community structure through the combined effects of selective and neutral processes. [source]

The relative role of drift and selection in shaping the human skull

Lia Betti
Abstract Human populations across the world vary greatly in cranial morphology. It is highly debated to what extent this variability has accumulated through neutral processes (genetic drift) or through natural selection driven by climate. By taking advantage of recent work showing that geographic distance along landmasses is an excellent proxy for neutral genetic differentiation, we quantify the relative role of drift versus selection in an exceptionally large dataset of human skulls. We show that neutral processes have been much more important than climate in shaping the human cranium. We further demonstrate that a large proportion of the signal for natural selection comes from populations from extremely cold regions. More generally, we show that, if drift is not explicitly accounted for, the effect of natural selection can be greatly overestimated. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2010. 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc. [source]

Neutrals' differing thought processes can define attorneys' roles in ADR representation

Ira B. Lobel
Ira B. Lobel, of Delmar, N.Y., analyzes the basic neutrals' processes in mediation and arbitration, distinguishing the different ways neutrals operate in each with an eye toward establishing strategy for advocates, and understanding of ADR for clients. [source]