• What distinguishes the elephant from E. coli: Causal spreading and the biological principles of metazoan complexity

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    • Keywords


      Biological causation; biological complexity; gene regulation; intrinsically disordered proteins; metazoan evolution

    • Abstract


      Jacques Monod famously said that ‘What is true for E. coliis true for the elephant.’ While this might be correct in the basic sense that both use nucleic acids and proteins, it is no longer clear that they use them in quite the same way. The many qualitative differences in the biomolecular constitution and mechanisms of protozoans and metazoans, from the proportions of non-coding DNA to those of multidomain and disordered proteins and the mechanisms of gene regulation, seem to reflect different generic principles in how the two types of organism operate at the molecular and cellular levels. Here I suggest that one way to think about those differences is as a shift in the locus of biological causation – a shift that has implications for making biomedical interventions in humans.

    • Author Affiliations



      1. Freelance writer, London SE22, UK
    • Dates

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