About Daniel Jarosz's Work
Evolution is thought to be driven by spontaneous variants that are enriched during times of stress. However, selection operates on phenotypes rather than genotypes. Thus, any means of generating heritable diversity can fuel innovation. We recently discovered that environmental stimuli commonly induce self-perpetuating changes in protein conformation. Corresponding changes in function are heritable across generations without any change in the genome. Our goal is to identify and characterize such prion-like molecular memories in the human proteome and harness biosynthetic opportunities provided by their modes of self-assembly. Lessons learned will provide mechanistic understanding of epigenetic inheritance that is quasi-Lamarckian, but rooted in a Darwinian framework. Packard Foundation funding will enable my laboratory to carry out the high-risk science necessary to uncover the principles of this new realm of biology and to investigate its evolutionary and technological implications.