Evolution of bet-hedging mechanisms in cell cycle and embryo development stimulated by weak linkage of stochastic processes

MacIej Dobrzyński, Piotr Bernatowicz, Malgorzata Kloc, Jacek Z. Kubiak

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Scopus citations


Our current understanding of the origin and evolution of the cell cycle is largely filled with gaps and unresolved questions. Numerous similarities between the processes comprising the cell cycle in distant organisms from the Pro- and Eukaryota kingdoms provide some clues about the course that evolution has taken. Contemporary Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes regulate their cell cycles in a quite similar way, using a master oscillator that regulates cell division. Despite this striking similarity, they use entirely different molecules for this purpose. The necessity to keep the master oscillator intact for the survival of every cell/organism allows evolutionary changes in only the secondary mechanisms and processes of the cell cycle. This is especially clear in oocytes and embryos, which have a direct impact on the reproductive success of an adult organism. Here, we present examples of cues driving such mild evolutionary changes of certain aspects of cell cycle progression in oocytes and early embryos. We suggest that weak linkages between core processes that rely on randomness (stochasticity) have led to the evolution of strategies increasing fitness similar to bet-hedging, a stochastic-based survival strategy of risk minimization widely implemented by populations of bacteria, yeast, arthropods, and birds. Stochastic diversification of phenotypes by isogenic cells increases their fitness in unpredictable environments and improves their survival rate upon exposure to stress, a trait beneficial in evading antibiotic treatment by bacteria or withstanding chemotherapy by cancer cells. The evolution of bet-hedging has been observed experimentally for bacteria and attributed to specific molecular mechanisms involved in this strategy. In this chapter, we set out to answer whether similar strategies could have evolved at the level of oocytes and embryos. We indicate possible evolutionary cues capable of realizing bet-hedging-like mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCell Cycle in Development
EditorsJacek Kubiak
Number of pages20
StatePublished - 2011

Publication series

NameResults and Problems in Cell Differentiation
ISSN (Print)0080-1844
ISSN (Electronic)1861-0412

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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