Because 60 percent of yeast genes have at least one clearly identifiable human counterpart, the advance, described in the Nov. 5 issue of Molecular Cell, should speed advances in understanding human gene and protein functions, as well as improve the reliability of what scientists think they know about this extremely useful microorganism. Eventually the work with yeast could reveal particular gene interactions that could become targets for therapies to fight cancers or fungal infections, say the researchers.
The toolkit, a combination of techniques developed by the Hopkins researchers and others, starts with a collection of almost 6,000 yeast strains, each missing a different gene, and allows researchers to identify genes whose coupled elimination kills the yeast. Many laboratories are already using the "single knock-out" yeast collections, but postdoctoral fellow Xuewen Pan, Ph.D., found a way to protect the genetic integrity of the collection so that repeated experiments will provide the same results, regardless of when and where the experiments are conducted.
"Everyone in the yeast community has been using their own batch of yeast mutants, but the slow-growing mutants gradually accumulate extra genetic changes so they can grow faster," says Jef Boeke, Ph.D., professor of molecular biology and genetics and director of the HighThroughput Biology (HiT) Center in Hopkins Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences. "This potential for genetic impurity means that one persons batch of yeast is no longer exactly the same as someone elses. We went back to the original stocks of yeast mutants, in certain cases, so we know exactly what we have."
Joanna Downer | EurekAlert!
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