Can Genes Explain Biological Complexity?

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Science  18 May 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5520, pp. 1315-1316
DOI: 10.1126/science.1060852

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When it comes to the complexity of organisms we immediately think of behavioral or morphological complexity or perhaps wish to count the number of cells in an organism or the number of genes in the organism's genome. As Szathmáry et al. explain in their Perspective, biological complexity is not that simple. With the completed sequences of yeast, worm, fly, and human at hand, it is now clear that the number of genes cannot account for the complexity of organisms (the fly genome has about 25,000 genes and we only have about 35,000). The Perspective authors discuss whether we should think about complexity in terms of interactions among gene-regulation networks, using equations similar to those used by ecologists to determine the multitudinous interactions within food webs.