The responsibility to share: sharing the responsibility

Martin Yuille, Bernhard Korn, Troy Moore, Andrew A. Farmer, John Carrino, Christa Prange, Yoshihide Hayashizaki

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The transcriptome, promoterome, and phenome clone sets described in this special issue of Genome Research are among the first of a new breed of clones. Their novel features affect how distributors on the path from originator to end user handle such resources. These new features are individual design, collective use, large scale, and flexibility. Whereas pre-genome clones bore random lengths of genomic DNA or cDNA from random locations in the genome or transcriptome, each of these post-genome clones bears a specialized vector harboring a tailored sequence that the originator selected and/or designed down to the last base pair.

These clone sets are intended for collective use in two senses. Firstly, an entire set may be used in one experiment with the aim of identifying the subset that elicits some detectable phenotype in vivo. Secondly, an entire community of scientists (e.g., the worm community) may use the same clone set to identify further subsets of clones that each elicit other phenotypes. When they share their data, its combined scientific value increases disproportionately.

The scale of these experiments is orders of magnitude greater than those studying one clone at a time. Since the 1970s, constructs have been arduously created by restriction and ligation. This technology is now being displaced by less-arduous in vitro recombination-based methods that permit systematic approaches to the study of defined sequences. Recombination-based cloning makes it far easier to derive subclones and swap specific sequences (representing, for example, orthologous protein domains or epitope tags). This flexibility means that initial clone sets will become the basis for many rounds of subcloning to permit finer experimental definition of function. The simplicity of these methods and the growth of bioinformatics and robotics facilitate production of large-scale clone sets whose experimental value increases geometrically, but only if distribution is timely, accurate, and efficient.

Therefore, whereas the genome project used large numbers of clones for just one main purpose, post-genome molecular biology requires large clone sets for many inter-related purposes. This then creates opportunities—and problems—not only for investigative biologists, but also for infrastructure biologists (defined as those who created the machinery to facilitate the genome project that now needs adaptation to post-genomic biology).

This Commentary explores how the distribution infrastructure may respond to this new breed of clones in the current policy framework. Distribution is undertaken by a number of specialist organizations globally. The authors of this Commentary are drawn from public sector organizations that may be working under not-for-profit policies and from the private sector. In some ways, we compete with each other, but our joint authorship—a first, as far as we are aware—reflects perhaps the most important feature of the response required by post-genome biology, the requirement for greater coordination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2015-2019
Number of pages5
JournalGenome research
Issue number10B
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2004


  • Access to Information
  • Biomedical Research
  • Biotechnology
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Data Collection
  • Humans
  • Information Services
  • Information Storage and Retrieval
  • methods
  • Publishing
  • statistics & numerical data
  • trends
  • utilization


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