Model organisms like Caenorhabditis elegans are of great importance to our understanding of basic biology and to making advances in biomedical research. However, the influence of laboratory cultivation on these organisms is underappreciated, and especially how that environment can affect research outcomes.
The impact of laboratory cultivation on C. elegans was reviewed by Mark Sterken, Basten Snoek, and Jan Kammenga from Wageningen University and Erik Andersen from Northwestern University. The review in Trends in Genetics describes how the reference strain of the nematode C. elegans (N2) compares with natural strains. The authors indicate the selective pressures that led to the fixation of laboratory-derived alleles for the genes npr-1, glb-5, and nath-10. Especially, the effects of these genes on the phenotype of N2 are discussed.
Finally, strategies are offered that aim to reduce the influence of laboratory-derived alleles and to harness the power of the N2 strain and wild isolates.