Stress-Induced Evolutionary Innovation: A Mechanism for the Origin of Cell Types

Günter P. Wagner, Eric M. Erkenbrack, Alan C. Love

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Understanding the evolutionary role of environmentally induced phenotypic variation (i.e., plasticity) is an important issue in developmental evolution. A major physiological response to environmental change is cellular stress, which is counteracted by generic stress reactions detoxifying the cell. A model, stress-induced evolutionary innovation (SIEI), whereby ancestral stress reactions and their corresponding pathways can be transformed into novel structural components of body plans, such as new cell types, is described. Previous findings suggest that the cell differentiation cascade of a cell type critical to pregnancy in humans, the decidual stromal cell, evolved from a cellular stress reaction. It is hypothesized that the stress reaction in these cells was elicited ancestrally via inflammation caused by embryo attachment. The present study proposes that SIEI is a distinct form of plasticity-based evolutionary change leading to the origin of novel structures rather than adaptive transformation of pre-existing characters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1800188
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019

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© 2019 WILEY Periodicals, Inc.


  • cell type origin
  • evolutionary innovation
  • novelty
  • plasticity
  • stress response


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