Conrad Waddington published an influential model for evolution in his 1942 paper, Canalization of Development and Inheritance of Acquired Characters. In this classic, albeit controversial, paper, he proposed that an unknown mechanism exists that conceals phenotypic variation until the organism is stressed. Recent studies have proposed that the highly conserved chaperone Hsp90 could function as a “capacitor,” or an “adaptively inducible canalizer,” that masks silent phenotypic variation of either genetic or epigenetic origin. This review will discuss evidence for, and arguments against, the role of Hsp90 as a capacitor for morphological evolution, and as a key component of what we call “Waddington’s widget.”
D.M. Ruden, M.D. Garfinkel, V.E. Sollars, X. Lu. Waddington's widget: Hsp90 and the inheritance of acquired characters. Semin Cell Dev Biol, 14 (2003), pp. 301–310.