Discussion: can't we get along?

S L Forsburg forsburg at nospamsalk.edu
Mon Jun 22 12:18:44 EST 1998

Okay, yeasties, here's a topic for discussion:

Does the identification of a particular gene and gene function
in one organism make its study in any other organism moot?

I would argue quite the opposite;  studying the same genes
in different organisms is intrinsically valuable.  

The pages of Nature are filled with human homologues of mouse or
 fly genes, so those folks recognize the importance
of doing work in multiple species.  

As far as our 
favorite yeasts go, pombe and cerevisiae are not identical. 
They are quite distant in evolution. 
There are certainly essential genes in pombe that don't 
exist in cerevisiae, and probably vice versa (although we won't
know for sure till pombe's genome sequence is complete!).  This
tells us that there is more than one way to build a yeast,
and that's a fine thing!

There are certainly examples where the same genes in the two
yeasts do not behave in exactly the same way. Eg, the CDC28/cdc2
kinases and their regulation by tyrosine phosphorylation;
the ability to induce re-replication by manipulating
cdc2 or cdc18 levels in pombe but not in cerevisiae;
 some MCM proteins in cerevisiae
appear to cycle in and out of the nucleus but not in

I argue that neither yeast is better but both are essential
--there can be more than one way to solve a problem or regulate a 
process, and we have a phenomenal opportunity to determine that
by studying two such different yet tractable organisms!  
Even if a particular molecule is regulated in the same way,
it gives us better cause
for assuming that such regulation is representative of larger
eukaryotes.  Differences direct us to understand why they occur.

So where does this attitude come that just because some expts
have been done in cereivsiae they are unworthy of doing in pombe,
or vice versa?  How little would we understand of the different
ways that CDC28/cdc2 can be regulated 
 if different groups had not investigated tyrosine 
phosphorylation in  both yeast species!  

I put it to you that these attitudes that "my yeast is better
than yours" and "your work is contributing nothing because
I already did it in a differnt species" are severely damaging 
our community.  We do not need to be  threatened by each other.  
We have far too much to learn.  Our own  work is not invalidated
if someone else discovers the same thing, or 
something different, in the other species.  

And a final note.  The completion of the pombe genome sequence will
provide our yeast community with a fascinating opportunity.  Once
again, these model organisms will provide us with tools to lead
the way for those working on Bigger Cells:  how to compare two 
genomes.  This will only work if we combine our efforts,
embrace the differences between pombe and cerevisaie, and
really do become one yeast community. 

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S L Forsburg, PhD  forsburg at salk.edu
Molecular Biology and Virology Lab          
The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA 

Women in Biology Internet Launch Page
"These are my opinions.  I don't have  
time to speak for anyone else."

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