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Scientists build minimum-genome bacterium

Only 473 genes needed to keep organism alive

2:00pm, March 24, 2016

STRIPPED DOWN  A newly-created bacterium dubbed syn3.0 has the smallest genome needed for free living. It contains just 473 genes. Of those, 149 have unknown functions.

Scientists have built a bacterium that contains the minimal genetic ingredients needed for free living.

This bacterium’s entire set of genetic blueprints, its genome, consists of only 473 genes, including 149 whose precise biological function is unknown, researchers report in the March 25 Science.

The newly-created bacterium contains a minimalist version of the genome of Mycoplasma mycoides. Mycoplasma already have some of the smallest known genomes. M. mycoides used in the experiments started with 901 genes. In comparison, other bacteria, including E. coli, may have 4,000 to 5,000 genes. Humans have more than 22,000 genes, although not all are necessary (SN: 4/2/16, p. 18).

In 2010, researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute in La Jolla,

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