Inferring Life Style From Gene Expression Patterns
For many organisms, and especially for the model organisms of molecular and cell biology, the primary locus of study is the laboratory, and not their natural habitat. Thus, a huge body of knowledge accumulated through a century of laboratory studies contrasts with the limited amount of information available on the ecology of many model organisms. This discrepancy is particularly through a century of laboratory studies contrasts with the limited amount of information available on the ecology of many model organisms. This discrepancy is particularly striking for microbes, which arguably provide the bulk of our cell biological knowledge, but whose natural habitats are poorly understood. Their physiology, their genomic gene content, and the sturcture of their genetic networks has been shaped over millions of years by natural selection in the wild. Because of this discrepancy, certain laboratory experiments have limited value in understanding the workings of an organism. A case in point are the huge number of gene knock-out experiments in multiple eukaryotes that show little or no phenotypic effects in the laboratory. The artifical conditions under which these experiments are carried out may sometimes be resonsible for the absence of such phenotypic defects. Arguably, in the wild, such knock-out mutations might be elimited form the population. It would thus be best to assay their effects under more realistic conditions.
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