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FEBS Lett. 2011 Jan 3;585(1):1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.febslet.2010.11.024. Epub 2010 Nov 19.

Synthetic lethality: general principles, utility and detection using genetic screens in human cells.

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Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (CeMM), Vienna, Austria.


Synthetic lethality occurs when the simultaneous perturbation of two genes results in cellular or organismal death. Synthetic lethality also occurs between genes and small molecules, and can be used to elucidate the mechanism of action of drugs. This area has recently attracted attention because of the prospect of a new generation of anti-cancer drugs. Based on studies ranging from yeast to human cells, this review provides an overview of the general principles that underlie synthetic lethality and relates them to its utility for identifying gene function, drug action and cancer therapy. It also identifies the latest strategies for the large-scale mapping of synthetic lethalities in human cells which bring us closer to the generation of comprehensive human genetic interaction maps.

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