Chance and necessity in evolution are fundamental themes of biology. Adaptation is the deterministic part of this process: driven by natural selection, populations establish functional changes in response to changes in their environment. How can we understand these dynamics starting from their molecular basis, which lies in genes and their interactions? How do adaptation and functional innovation take place amidst the stochastic changes of molecular evolution? How is micro-evolutionary adaptation linked to macro-evolutionary differences between species? These are the central questions addressed by CRC 680.

We study adaptation of specific, well-defined gene networks and pathways, where causal relationships between genomic and functional changes can be established. Hence, a defining topic of this CRC is the evolution of regulatory interactions between genes, which have long been hypothesized to be a major source of evolutionary innovations.

Modern sequencing and biophysical technologies have provided an unprecedented amount of molecular data to address these questions. In particular, an intriguing new role for evolutionary science has been opened by the availability of time-resolved data: in some cases, the future course of evolution may become predictable. This is of fundamental importance and paves the way for new applications: The projects in this CRC reach out towards making better environment-adapted crops and better influenza vaccines.

CRC 680 unites a unique spectrum of competence in evolutionary genetics and biophysics. Its projects serve the common goal to understand the complex dynamics of molecular evolution in a quantitative way. This is necessary to explain micro- and macro-evolution in terms of common principles and to make evolutionary biology, at least for some systems, a predictive science.

The Collaborative Research Center is funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).