Genome sequencing projects have revealed a massive catalog of genes and astounding genetic diversity in a variety of organisms. We are now faced with the formidable challenge of assigning functions to thousands of genes, and how to use this information to understand how genes interact and coordinate cell function. Studies indicate that the majority of eukaryotic genes are dispensable, highlighting the extensive buffering of genomes against genetic and environmental perturbations. Such robustness poses a significant challenge to those seeking to understand the wiring diagram of the cell. Genome-scale screens for genetic interactions are an effective means to chart the network that underlies this functional redundancy. A complete atlas of genetic interactions offers the potential to assign functions to most genes identified by whole genome sequencing projects and to delineate a functional wiring diagram of the cell. Perhaps more importantly, mapping genetic networks on a large-scale will shed light on the general principles and rules governing genetic networks and provide valuable information regarding the important but elusive relationship between genotype and phenotype.
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