Mechanistic approaches to the study of evolution: the functional synthesis

Nat Rev Genet. 2007 Sep;8(9):675-88. doi: 10.1038/nrg2160.


An emerging synthesis of evolutionary biology and experimental molecular biology is providing much stronger and deeper inferences about the dynamics and mechanisms of evolution than were possible in the past. The new approach combines statistical analyses of gene sequences with manipulative molecular experiments to reveal how ancient mutations altered biochemical processes and produced novel phenotypes. This functional synthesis has set the stage for major advances in our understanding of fundamental questions in evolutionary biology. Here we describe this emerging approach, highlight important new insights that it has made possible, and suggest future directions for the field.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Color Perception / genetics
  • Directed Molecular Evolution / methods*
  • Drug Resistance / genetics
  • Humans
  • Insecticide Resistance / genetics
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Biology / methods*
  • Phylogeny
  • Pigmentation / genetics
  • Protein Engineering / methods*
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / physiology*
  • Selection, Genetic


  • Proteins