David G. King, associate
of Zoology, College
of Agricultural, Life, and Physical Sciences;
Department of Anatomy,
School of Medicine
University of California San Diego,
Retired, Southern Illinois University, 2014.
Research history: My doctoral dissertation
and postdoctoral research on the morphology of
individually-identifiable nerve cells led me to wonder how the exquisite details of
neural circuitry had evolved.
Adaptive "tuning" of neural circuits would surely be expedited if functional parameters
of individual nerve cells could be separately adjusted by mutation. Once I
understood that abundant genetic variation at sites of tandem-repetitive DNA could quantitatively
influence the action of associated genes, while incurring relatively low risk of harm, I realized that
such sites -- which vastly outnumber protein-coding genes -- might function as
"evolutionary tuning knobs" for practically any trait.
For the past three decades, my publications have reviewed growing evidence
for this "tuning knob" hypothesis. I have proposed that the "tuning knob" properties
of tandem-repetitive DNA constitute one among several "mutation
protocols" that have been indirectly shaped by natural selection, thereby (perhaps) facilitating
the widely recognized evolutionary plasticity of complex animal behavior.
Annotated publication list