The matches, achieved by natural selection, between biological capacities and their natural loads

Experientia. 1992 Jun 15;48(6):551-7. doi: 10.1007/BF01920238.


Natural selection tends to eliminate unutilized capacities because of their costs. Hence we ask how large are the reserve capacities by which biological capacities exceed natural loads, and how closely are related biological capacities matched to each other. Measured capacities (Vmax values) of small intestinal brush-border nutrient transporters are typically around twice their natural loads (dietary intakes of their substrates); the ratio is higher for a transporter of a hyperessential nutrient. Preliminary evidence suggests matching of capacities between different steps in carbohydrate metabolism, and between the intestine, liver, kidneys, and spleen. Symmorphosis - the postulated matching of capacities to each other and to loads - is a testable hypothesis of economic design, useful in detecting and explaining cases of apparently uneconomic design.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Cold Temperature
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / metabolism
  • Female
  • Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Intestinal Absorption*
  • Intestine, Small / metabolism
  • Lactation
  • Mice
  • Microvilli / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Pregnancy
  • Selection, Genetic*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Hydrolases