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PLoS Genet. 2007 May 4;3(5):e72. Epub 2007 Mar 21.

Regional variation in the density of essential genes in mice.

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  • 1Faculty of Life Sciences, The University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom.


In most species, and particularly in vertebrates, the percentage of genes absolutely required for survival, the essential genes, has not been estimated. To obtain this estimation, we used the mouse as an experimental model to carry out high-efficiency N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU) mutagenesis screens in two balancer chromosome regions, and compared our results to a third previously published screen. The number of essential genes in each region was predicted based on allele frequencies. We determined that the density of essential genes differs by up to an order of magnitude among genomic regions. This indicates that extrapolating from regional estimates to genome-wide estimates of essential genes has a huge variance. A particularly high density of essential genes on mouse Chromosome 11 coincides with a high degree of regional linkage conservation, providing a possible causal explanation for the density variation. This is the first demonstration of regional variation in essential gene density in the mouse genome.

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