The molecular chaperone protein Hsp90 has been widely discussed as a candidate gene for developmental buffering. We used the methods of geometric morphometrics to analyze its effects on the variation among individuals and fluctuating asymmetry of wing shape in Drosophila melanogaster. Three different experimental approaches were used to reduce Hsp90 activity. In the first experiment, developing larvae were reared in food containing a specific inhibitor of Hsp90, geldanamycin, but neither individual variation nor fluctuating asymmetry was altered. Two further experiments generated lines of genetically identical flies carrying mutations of Hsp83, the gene encoding the Hsp90 protein, in heterozygous condition in nine different genetic backgrounds. The first of these, introducing entire chromosomes carrying either of two Hsp83 mutations, did not increase shape variation or asymmetry over a wild-type control in any of the nine genetic backgrounds. In contrast, the third experiment, in which one of these Hsp83 alleles was introgressed into the wild-type background that served as the control, induced an increase in both individual variation and fluctuating asymmetry within each of the nine genetic backgrounds. No effect of Hsp90 on the difference among lines was detected, providing no evidence for cryptic genetic variation of wing shape. Overall, these results suggest that Hsp90 contributes to, but is not controlling, the buffering of phenotypic variation in wing shape.
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Vol. 60 • No. 12