, Volume 123, Issue 1-2, pp 205-209

Can ecology help genomics: the genome as ecosystem?

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Abstract

Ecologists study the rules that govern processes influencing the distribution and abundance of organisms, particularly with respect to the interactions of organisms with their biotic and abiotic environments. Over the past decades, using a combination of sophisticated mathematical models and rigorous experiments, ecologists have made considerable progress in understanding the complex web of interactions that constitute an ecosystem. The field of genomics runs on a path parallel to ecology. Like ecology, genomicists seek to understand how each gene in the genome interacts with every other gene and how each gene interacts with multiple, environmental factors. Gene networks connect genes as complex as the ‘webs’ that connect the species in an ecosystem. In fact, genes exist in an ecosystem we call the genome. The genome as ecosystem is more than a metaphor – it serves as the conceptual foundation for an interdisciplinary approach to the study of complex systems characteristic of both genomics and ecology. Through the infusion of genomics into ecology and ecology into genomics both fields will gain fresh insight into the outstanding major questions of their disciplines.