Transcriptional adaptation: A mechanism underlying genetic robustness

Tamar E. Sztal, Y. R. Stainier

Research output: Contribution to journalComment / DebateOtherpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Mutations play a crucial role in evolution as they provide the genetic variation that allows evolutionary change. Although some mutations in regulatory elements or coding regions can be beneficial, a large number of them disrupt gene function and reduce fitness. Organisms utilize several mechanisms to compensate for the damaging consequences of genetic perturbations. One such mechanism is the recently identified process of transcriptional adaptation (TA): during this event, mutations that cause mutant mRNA degradation trigger the transcriptional modulation of so-called adapting genes. In some cases, for example when one (or more) of the upregulated genes is functionally redundant with the mutated gene, this process compensates for the loss of the mutated gene’s product. Notably, unlike other mechanisms underlying genetic robustness, TA is not triggered by the loss of protein function, an observation that has prompted studies into the machinery of TA and the contexts in which it functions. Here, we review the discovery and current understanding of TA, and discuss how its main features appear to be conserved across species. In light of these findings, we also speculate on the importance of TA in the context of human disease, and provide some recommendations for genome-editing strategies that should be more effective.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdev186452
Number of pages7
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2020


  • Gene expression
  • Genetic compensation
  • Genetic robustness
  • Genetic variation
  • Transcriptional adaptation

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