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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2004 Sep;68(3):518-37, table of contents.

Determination of the core of a minimal bacterial gene set.

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  • 1Institut Cavanilles de Biodiversitat i Biologia Evolutiva, Universitat de València, Apartat Oficial 2085, 46071 València, Spain.


The availability of a large number of complete genome sequences raises the question of how many genes are essential for cellular life. Trying to reconstruct the core of the protein-coding gene set for a hypothetical minimal bacterial cell, we have performed a computational comparative analysis of eight bacterial genomes. Six of the analyzed genomes are very small due to a dramatic genome size reduction process, while the other two, corresponding to free-living relatives, are larger. The available data from several systematic experimental approaches to define all the essential genes in some completely sequenced bacterial genomes were also considered, and a reconstruction of a minimal metabolic machinery necessary to sustain life was carried out. The proposed minimal genome contains 206 protein-coding genes with all the genetic information necessary for self-maintenance and reproduction in the presence of a full complement of essential nutrients and in the absence of environmental stress. The main features of such a minimal gene set, as well as the metabolic functions that must be present in the hypothetical minimal cell, are discussed.

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