Alternative yeast joins genome party.
Budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae makes way for a new genome star.
First there was budding yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Partly responsible for scientists survival by fermenting their staples beer and bread, they polished off its DNA sequence back in 1997.
Now the minority fungus of lab culture - fission yeast (Schizosaccharomyces pombe) - is fighting back. This week S. pombe enters the experimental big leagues, with the announcement of its completed genome1.
Quality over quantity
S. pombes genome highlights the dissimilarity between the two yeasts. S. pombe has 4,824 genes - about 1,000 less than its cousin, and fewer even than some bacteria. This is evidence of quality over quantity, says Nurse, who led the sequencing effort.
Despite the yeasts differences, "its what they share thats important", says Nurse. He hopes that comparing the two genomes will reveal exactly which parts are essential for yeast life.
Nurses team has already compared the S. pombe genome to another five completed ones - those of budding yeast, the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans, the fruit fly (Drosophila), mustard weed (Arabidopsis thaliana) and humans - to find commonalities. All six organisms are eukaryotes - unlike bacteria, they package up their DNA and protein production into distinct compartments within the cell. The team identified a toolkit of some 60 genes that are essential for organizing and dividing eukaryotic cells.
Armed with the genome, S. pombe researchers hope to wade into its proteome, identifying all its proteins and how they interact. But once again, theyre playing catch-up - budding-yeast researchers are well on their way towards this goal.
Still, S. pombe scientists are used to struggling for recognition. And, despite a slow start and early rivalry, "no one would argue for only one yeast now", says Russell.
Scientists still harking after S. cervisiaes brewing power may be won over by S. pombes potential. First described by Swiss researcher Lindner in 1893, he isolated it from East African millet beer - and named it after the Swahili word for beer, pombe.
HELEN PEARSON | © Nature News Service
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