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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.”


NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology, [VOL 14, ISSUE 5, (October 2003)]

Copyright © 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.