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Keywords:

  • elemental composition;
  • integrative biology;
  • microevolution;
  • natural selection;
  • phosphate transporters;
  • phosphorus-responsive genes;
  • phosphorus

Abstract

Organisms require elements to live and reproduce. We already know that availability of certain elements [e.g. phosphorus (P)] is highly variable spatiotemporally. In addition, there is variability in demand for various elements ontogenetically, as well as phylogenetically. Nonetheless, we know little about the underlying causes for such variation. In this study, we surveyed the literature to identify genes involved in the homeostasis of one biogenic element, P. Evidence from the literature suggests that variation in the environmental supply of P affects expression of highly conserved genes (e.g. the phosphate transporter system). In addition, we found evidence for genetic variation in the acquisition, assimilation, and allocation of P. Such effects of P supply should impinge on fitness, and drive evolutionary change. Further understanding of the inter- and intraspecific fitness consequences to imbalances in the availability of P in relation to other biogenic elements may be useful to disentangle primary mechanisms driving diversifications. We argue that studying the interactions between stoichiometric constraints and underlying genes is relevant to the majority of organisms, and conclude by furnishing information on designing and interpreting experiments using this approach.