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Cell Death Dis. 2011 Aug 4;2:e188. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2011.72.

Gene-dependent cell death in yeast.

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Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.


Caspase-dependent apoptotic cell death has been extensively studied in cultured cells and during embryonic development, but the existence of analogous molecular pathways in single-cell species is uncertain. This has reduced enthusiasm for applying the advanced genetic tools available for yeast to study cell death regulation. However, partial characterization in mammals of additional genetically encoded cell death mechanisms, which lead to a range of dying cell morphologies and necrosis, suggests potential applications for yeast genetics. In this light, we revisited the topic of gene-dependent cell death in yeast to determine the prevalence of yeast genes with the capacity to contribute to cell-autonomous death. We developed a rigorous strategy by allowing sufficient time for gene-dependent events to occur, but insufficient time to evolve new populations, and applied this strategy to the Saccharomyces cerevisiae gene knockout collection. Unlike sudden heat shock, a ramped heat stimulus delivered over several minutes with a thermocycler, coupled with assessment of viability by automated counting of microscopic colonies revealed highly reproducible gene-specific survival phenotypes, which typically persist under alternative conditions. Unexpectedly, we identified over 800 yeast knockout strains that exhibit significantly increased survival following insult, implying that these genes can contribute to cell death. Although these death mechanisms are yet uncharacterized, this study facilitates further exploration.

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