KLI Colloquia are informal, public talks that are followed by extensive dissussions. Speakers are KLI fellows or visiting researchers who are interested in presenting their work to an interdisciplinary audience and discussing it in a wider research context. We offer three types of talks:

1. Current Research Talks. KLI fellows or visiting researchers present and discuss their most recent research with the KLI fellows and the Vienna scientific community.

2. Future Research Talks. Visiting researchers present and discuss future projects and ideas togehter with the KLI fellows and the Vienna scientific community.

3. Professional Developmental Talks. Experts about research grants and applications at the Austrian and European levels present career opportunities and strategies to late-PhD and post-doctoral researchers.

  • The presentation language is English.
  • If you are interested in presenting your current or future work at the KLI, please contact the Scientific Director or the Executive Manager.

Event Details

Günter Wagner
KLI Colloquia
Plasticity, Stress and Evolutionary Novelties
Günter WAGNER (Yale University)
2018-11-19 15:00 - 2018-11-19 16:30
Organized by KLI

Topic description / abstract:

The evolutionary role of environmentally induced phenotypic variation, i.e. environmental plasticity, is an important issue in developmental evolution. One of the major physiological responses to environmental changes is cellular stress, which is counteracted by a generic stress reaction detoxifying the cell, refolding proteins, and repairing eventual DNA damage. In this contribution I will elaborate on a previous finding suggesting that the cell differentiation cascade of human decidual stromal cells, a cell type critical for embryo implantation and the maintenance of pregnancy, evolved from a cellular stress reaction. These results suggest that the stress reaction in these cells was ancestrally elicited by the inflammation caused by embryo attachment and invasion. This leads to a scenario, Stress Induced Evolutinoary Innovation (SIEI), in which the ancestral stress reaction was transformed into the phenotype of a novel cell type, the decidual stromal cell. I will be arguing that SIEI is a distinct form of plasticity based evolutionary change. The distinguishing feature being that SIEI leads to novel cell types, rather than directly to the adaptive transformation of a pre-existing character. The similarities and differences of SIEI and he “plasticity first hypothesis” of evolution will be discussed.


Biographical note:

Günter Wagner is the Alison Richard Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University. He is a chemical engineer by training and studied zoology and mathematics at the University of Vienna where he earned a Ph. D. in zoology. From 1985 till 1991 he was at the Department of Zoology at the University of Vienna, Austria and in 1991 joined Yale’s Department of Biology. In 1997 he became the first chair of Yale’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Since 2010 he is a member of the Yale Systems Biology Institute. His research interests include population genetics, the evolution of gene regulation, the evolution of pregnancy, and the evolutionary medicine of cancer and female sexuality. GPW is a Mac Arthur Fellow, member of the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a corresponding foreign member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.