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Dis Model Mech. 2012 Jan;5(1):33-7. doi: 10.1242/dmm.007989. Epub 2011 Nov 22.

Studying synthetic lethal interactions in the zebrafish system: insight into disease genes and mechanisms.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Blvd, Dallas, TX 75390-8534, USA.


The post-genomic era is marked by a pressing need to functionally characterize genes through understanding gene-gene interactions, as well as interactions between biological pathways. Exploiting a phenomenon known as synthetic lethality, in which simultaneous loss of two interacting genes leads to loss of viability, aids in the investigation of these interactions. Although synthetic lethal screening is a powerful technique that has been used with great success in many model organisms, including Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans, this approach has not yet been applied in the zebrafish, Danio rerio. Recently, the zebrafish has emerged as a valuable system to model many human disease conditions; thus, the ability to conduct synthetic lethal screening using zebrafish should help to uncover many unknown disease-gene interactions. In this article, we discuss the concept of synthetic lethality and provide examples of its use in other model systems. We further discuss experimental approaches by which the concept of synthetic lethality can be applied to the zebrafish to understand the functions of specific genes.

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