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Trends Genet. 2016 Mar;32(3):147-154. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2015.12.003. Epub 2016 Jan 7.

The Power of Natural Variation for Model Organism Biology.

Author information

1
Laboratory of Genetics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA. Electronic address: agasch@wisc.edu.
2
Laboratory of Genetics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA. Electronic address: bret.payseur@wisc.edu.
3
Laboratory of Genetics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA. Electronic address: jpool@wisc.edu.

Abstract

Genetic background effects have long been recognized and, in some cases studied, but they are often viewed as a nuisance by molecular biologists. We suggest that genetic variation currently represents a critical frontier for molecular studies. Human genetics has seen a surge of interest in genetic variation and its contributions to disease, but insights into disease mechanisms are difficult since information about gene function is lacking. By contrast, model organism genetics has excelled at revealing molecular mechanisms of cellular processes, but often de-emphasizes genetic variation and its functional consequences. We argue that model organism biology would benefit from incorporating natural variation, both to capture how well laboratory lines exemplify the species they represent and to inform on molecular processes and their variability. Such a synthesis would also greatly expand the relevance of model systems for studies of complex trait variation, including disease.

KEYWORDS:

genetic background; genetic mechanism; laboratory strain; model organism; natural variation; phenotypic diversity

PMID:
26777596
PMCID:
PMC4769656
[Available on 2017-03-01]
DOI:
10.1016/j.tig.2015.12.003
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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