The smallest bacterial genome, in context

e coli publicdomain
Researchers found that only about 8% of E. coli (shown above) genes are essential. But that's not the strangest finding from the search for the minimal genome.

In recent years, scientists have systematically shut down each of E. coli’s genes to see which it can live without. Most of its genes turn out to be dispensable. Only 302 have proved to be absolutely essential.

In the search for the most minimal genome, researchers have found a bacterial species with an smaller genome–about 120 genes. A closer look reveals that the species survive with such a stripped-down genetic setup only because the bacteria’s host–a mealybug–adopted some of the bacteria’s former DNA.

Read the full article here: How Simple Can Life Get? It’s Complicated

Additional Resources:

  • The complexity of simplicity,” Genome Biology
    Read about the idea of a minimal genome in this paper from the journal Genome Biology.
  • First self-replicating synthetic bacterial cell,” J. Craig Venter Institute
    Biologist Craig Venter used his research, including work on understanding the minimal genome concept, to create the world’s first synthetic genome. Learn more about the work at the Institute website. 
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