Physiological regulatory networks: ecological roles and evolutionary constraints

Trends Ecol Evol. 2012 Aug;27(8):428-35. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2012.04.008. Epub 2012 May 19.


Ecological and evolutionary physiology has traditionally focused on one aspect of physiology at a time. Here, we discuss the implications of considering physiological regulatory networks (PRNs) as integrated wholes, a perspective that reveals novel roles for physiology in organismal ecology and evolution. For example, evolutionary response to changes in resource abundance might be constrained by the role of dietary micronutrients in immune response regulation, given a particular pathogen environment. Because many physiological components impact more than one process, organismal homeostasis is maintained, individual fitness is determined and evolutionary change is constrained (or facilitated) by interactions within PRNs. We discuss how PRN structure and its system-level properties could determine both individual performance and patterns of physiological evolution.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Ecological and Environmental Phenomena*
  • Genetic Fitness
  • Homeostasis
  • Models, Biological
  • Phenotype