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Genome Res. 2003 Mar;13(3):399-406.

Schizosaccharomyces pombe essential genes: a pilot study.

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Cell Cycle Laboratory, Cancer Research UK, London, WC2A 3PX, UK.


After completion of the Schizosaccharomyces pombe genome sequence, we have carried out a pilot gene deletion project to assess the feasibility of a genome-wide deletion project and to estimate the percentage of essential genes. Using a PCR-based gene deletion procedure, we investigated 100 genes within a 253-kb region of chromosome II. Eight of nine genes located within a region of 18 kb could not be deleted, suggesting that systematic deletion of all fission yeast genes may be difficult to achieve using this PCR approach. The percentage of essential genes was found to be 17.5%. Further deletion of selected S. pombe genes revealed that whether a gene is essential or not is correlated with the timing of its appearance on the tree of life and its conservation within all branches of the tree. None of the investigated ancient genes in fission yeast that have been lost in the Saccharomyces cerevisiae lineage are essential. In agreement with S. cerevisiae and Caenorhabditis elegans genome analyses, our data suggest that natural selection has preferentially kept the genes required for vital functions. We propose that many of the essential eukaryotic genes appeared with the first eukaryotic cell and have remained conserved in all species.

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