|National Center for Biotechnology Information
What Is a Model Organism?
Over the last century, research on a small number of organisms
has played a pivotal role in advancing our understanding of numerous
biological processes. This is because many aspects of biology are
similar in most or all organisms, but it is frequently much easier
to study a particular aspect in one organism than in others. These
much-studied organisms are commonly referred to as model organisms,
because each has one or more characteristics that make it suitable for
laboratory study. The most popular model organisms have strong advantages
for experimental research, such as rapid development with short
life cycles, small adult size, ready availability, and tractability,
and become even more useful when many other scientists work on them.
A large amount of information can then be derived from these organisms,
providing valuable data for the analysis of normal human development;
gene regulation, genetic diseases, and evolutionary processes.
Arabidopsis thaliana is a small flowering plant that belongs
to the Brassica family, which includes species such as broccoli,
cauliflower, cabbage, and radish. Because Arabidopsis has a small
genome relative to other plants and is easily grown under laboratory
conditions, it has become the organism of choice for basic studies
of the molecular genetics of flowering plants. Scientists expect
that systematic studies of Arabidopsis will offer important advantages
for basic research in genetics and molecular biology and will illuminate
numerous features of plant biology, including those of significant
value to agriculture, energy, environment, and human health.