In many papers the MAPK pathway, (along with many others) is referred to as being conserved:

Example: "The mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascades are ubiquitous in eukaryotic signal transduction, and these pathways are conserved in cells from yeast to mammals"

example 2 "The Hippo signaling pathway appears to be highly conserved."

What does it mean for a pathway to be conserved?


A conserved pathway is a pathway that exists in a variety of species, by virtue of that pathway being conserved throughout the evolution of those species. A pathway must by neccessity have appeared for the first time in one particular species. If that species gives rise to new species, but the pathway in question is identical or very similar in all the new species, it is sensible to say that pathway has been evolutionary conserved. This may imply that the pathway in its conserved form is important for the fitness of those species.

For some examples, here is a page on evolutionary conserved pathways in Drosophila: http://www.sdbonline.org/sites/fly/aimain/aadevinx.htm

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, so it's conserved as in kept back, in the same way one would conserve a limited energy supply. $\endgroup$
    – RNs_Ghost
    Apr 2 '14 at 13:52
  • $\begingroup$ @RRs_Ghost I would rather say conserved as in unmodified (over long periods of time and across species). $\endgroup$ Apr 2 '14 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ More in the way that the pathway is found in a wide variety of species. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Apr 2 '14 at 14:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Good answer. You might add that there isn't really one MAP cascasde in mammals, although textbooks often speak of it as such --- there are several isoforms of each protein in the cascade, and probably many alternate signaling pathways connecting to different things. Which makes the idea of evolutionary conservation a bit more complicated ... $\endgroup$
    – Roland
    Jul 16 '16 at 6:40
  • $\begingroup$ Great answer - would there be a bioinformatic way to query for degree of conservation of pathway or how do people come up with the definition? $\endgroup$
    – Tapper
    Dec 31 '18 at 19:47

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