What factors explain and drive evolutionary change? Is evolution just a random mutational walk through an ever-changing garden of selective pressures? Or are there processes inherent in biology to drive evolution as a fundamental design characteristic? We have made the foundational discovery that the machinery responsible for programming the epigenome doesn’t only act on chromatin, but also modifies and directs the function of the cytoskeleton. Our Central Hypothesis is that a dual-function machinery able to coordinately change the cytoskeleton and the epigenome could act as a driver for evolution by coupling acquisition of new (cytoskeletal) functions with heritable (epigenetic) changes specifying those functions, what we term Epigenetic Entrainment.
To test the theory of Epigenetic Entrainment, our 4 Activities are: 1-Identify new dual-function “writers, and erasers” (the Tools); 2- Decipher the "Operating Manual" for this dual-function machine (the Rules); and with the “tools and rules” in hand, 3-Test the hypothesis dual-function remodelers produce coordinate, heritable changes in the epigenome and cytoskeleton. Activity 4 will integrate the theory of Epigenetic Entrainment into evolutionary biology through robust engagement with evolutionary biologists.
We will provide data and new knowledge on how the epigenetic machinery acts on the cytoskeleton via manuscript publications and presentations at scientific conferences, and generate new reagents and model systems for studying Epigenetic Entrainment. Primary outcomes will be: 1-New knowledge of the dual-activity of epigenoome-cytoskeleton remodelers; 2-New tools to facilitate research on dual-function chromatin-cytoskeleton remodelers by the broader scientific community; 3-Empirical support for coordinate, heritable changes in the epigenome and cytoskeleton (the theory of Epigenetic Entrainment); and 4-Advancement of the theory of Epigenetic Entrainment into evolutionary biology.