How to turn an organism into a model organism in 10 'easy' steps
Journal of Experimental Biology
Many of the major biological discoveries of the 20th century were made using just six species: Escherichia coli bacteria, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Schizosaccharomyces pombe yeast, Caenorhabditis elegans nematodes, Drosophila melanogaster flies and Mus musculus mice. Our molecular understanding of the cell division cycle, embryonic development, biological clocks and metabolism were all obtained through genetic analysis using these species. Yet the 'big 6' did not start out as genetic model
... ganisms (hereafter 'model organisms'), so how did they mature into such powerful systems? First, these model organisms are abundant human commensals: they are the bacteria in our gut, the yeast in our beer and bread, the nematodes in our compost pile, the flies in our kitchen and the mice in our walls. Because of this, they are cheaply, easily and rapidly bred in the laboratory and in addition were amenable to genetic analysis. How and why should we add additional species to this roster? We argue that specialist species will reveal new secrets in important areas of biology and that with modern technological innovations like next-generation sequencing and CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing, the time is ripe to move beyond the big 6. In this review, we chart a 10-step path to this goal, using our own experience with the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which we built into a model organism for neurobiology in one decade. Insights into the biology of this deadly disease vector require that we work with the mosquito itself rather than modeling its biology in another species.