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Scientists produce first large-scale map of cell division genes

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by In collaboration with PA Media Group | News

22 May 2013

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Cancer Research UK scientists have produced the first comprehensive map of the genes that coordinate the division and growth of yeast cells.

The map, published in the journal Open Biology, will underpin the search for equivalent genes in people and ultimately help in the quest to understand diseases like cancer.

Yeast has long been used as a laboratory model for understanding fundamental biology, and Professor Sir Paul Nurse – a member of the Cancer Research UK research team, shared a Nobel prize in 2001 for his work on cell division in both yeast and humans.

In the new study, the researchers examined DNA from almost 5,000 different genetically modified strains of yeast. In each of the strains, a single gene had been deleted.

They studied each strain to see if the deleted gene had any effect on cell division or cell shape.

Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information manager, said: “For the first time our researchers have created a complete picture of the genes that control cell growth and behaviour in yeast cells, which could reveal more about how cancer starts and develops and highlight new ways to tackle the disease.

By systematically working their way through all 4,843 yeast strains, researchers were able to identify the genes involved in these processes.

A total of 513 genes were identified as being required for cell division, 276 of which had not been previously linked to the process.

Deletions of a further 857 genes lead to changes in cell shape or resulted in generally misshapen cells – suggesting their involvement in the rate or manner in which the cells grew before dividing.

The authors say their results describe a ‘near genome-wide’ set of genes required for the cell division and growth, as the nearly 5,000 genes investigated make up about 95.7 of the yeast’s genes.

Dr Sharp added, “Research like this will be central to the work at the Francis Crick Institute, a new super-laboratory in London headed by Professor Sir Paul Nurse, co-author of this paper, where scientists will tackle major diseases such as cancer using the very latest technologies.”

Copyright Press Association 2013

  • Hayles al. & Nurse P. (2013). A genome-wide resource of cell cycle and cell shape genes of fission yeast, Open Biology, 3 (5) 130053-130053. DOI: