Article

Model organisms: There's more to life than rats and flies

Department of Biological Sciences, University of New Hampshire, Durham 03824, New Hampshire, USA.
Nature (Impact Factor: 41.46). 11/2012; 491(7422):31-3. DOI: 10.1038/491031a
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

The tiny number of model organisms constrains research in ways that must
be acknowledged and addressed, warns Jessica Bolker.

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Available from: Jessica A Bolker, Oct 14, 2014
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    • "While specialized (e.g., " enhancer " ) screens (Kile and Hilton, 2005; Patton and Zon, 2001) can uncover some of these factors, these are labor intensive and require base knowledge or assumptions about gene action. In all, it is becoming increasingly appreciated (e.g., (Bolker, 2012)) that new approaches and new models are needed to identify the genes that may have been missed by classic forward genetic screens. "
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    ABSTRACT: We have made great strides towards understanding the etiology of craniofacial disorders, especially for ‘simple’ Mendelian traits. However, the facial skeleton is a complex trait, and the full spectrum of genetic, developmental, and environmental factors that contribute to its final geometry remain unresolved. Forward genetic screens are constrained with respect to complex traits due to the types of genes and alleles commonly identified, developmental pleiotropy, and limited information about the impact of environmental interactions. Here, we discuss how studies in an evolutionary model – African cichlid fishes – can complement traditional approaches to understand the genetic and developmental origins of complex shape. Cichlids exhibit an unparalleled range of natural craniofacial morphologies that model normal human variation, and in certain instances mimic human facial dysmorphologies. Moreover, the evolutionary history and genomic architecture of cichlids make them an ideal system to identify the genetic basis of these phenotypes via quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping and population genomics. Given the molecular conservation of developmental genes and pathways, insights from cichlids are applicable to human facial variation and disease. We review recent work in this system, which has identified lbh as a novel regulator of neural crest cell migration, determined the Wnt and Hedgehog pathways mediate species-specific bone morphologies, and examined how plastic responses to diet modulate adult facial shapes. These studies have not only revealed new roles for existing pathways in craniofacial development, but have identified new genes and mechanisms involved in shaping the craniofacial skeleton. In all, we suggest that combining work in traditional laboratory and evolutionary models offers significant potential to provide a more complete and comprehensive picture of the myriad factors that are involved in the development of complex traits.
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    • "Fantastic toolkits have been developed that allow detailed studies of genetic effects on many traits including behavior. But the limited number of species, their unnaturally low genetic variability, and their insensitivity to their environment are likely to mean that genomic effects are overemphasized (Bolker 2012). It also means that they offer little to the behavioral ecologist because they lack the variability that enables key questions about function to be addressed. "

    Preview · Article · Sep 2014 · Behavioral Ecology
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    • "This is especially true when considering the large number of species and the plasticity of these organisms in terms of their biology, morphology , development in different hosts and infection and transmission modes (Rebello et al., 2011; Mutapi, 2012). Despite this biological variety, the murines are the current animal models of choice in the biological sciences; however, other biological systems in vivo can be promising study models and also to contribute to the elucidation of the host–parasite relationship (Bolker, 2012; Sotillo et al., 2012; Robinson et al., 2013). Herein we explore the parasitism of Ortleppascaris sp. "
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    ABSTRACT: The success of the helminth–host relationship depends on a biochemical molecular arsenal. Perhaps the proteome is the largest and most important set of this weaponry, in which the proteins have a crucial role in vital processes to the parasite/host relationship, from basic metabolism and energy production to complex immune responses. Nowadays, the bioproducts expressed by the parasites are under the “spotlight” of immunoassays and biochemical analysis in helminthology, especially in proteomic analysis, which has provided valuable information about the physiology of the infecting agent. Looking into this point of view, why not turn to the infected agent as well? This study characterised the proteomic profile of fluid-filled fibrous cysts of encapsulated Ortleppascaris sp. larvae in the hepatic parenchyma of their intermediate host, the amphibian Rhinella marina. The proteins were separated by two-dimensional electrophoresis and identified by MS with the aid of Peptide Mass Fingerprint. A total of 54 molecules were analysed in this system, revealing a complex protein profile with molecules related to basic metabolic processes of the parasite, energy production, oxi-reduction and oxidative stress processes as well as molecules related to the host response. This study contributes to proteomic studies of protein markers of the development, infectivity, virulence and co-existence of helminths and their hosts.
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