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
Yeast 14, 1437–1438 (1998)
Editorial
This Year in YEAST
REED B. WICKNER
Laboratory of Biochemistry and Genetics, National Institute of Diabetes Digestive and Kidney Diseases,
National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-0830, U.S.A.
The explosive growth of yeast work continues
unabated, and our journal has played a part in this
ongoing phenomenon. Among the major themes
are genomics, new methodologies, continued
recruitment of workers from other areas, discovery
of new areas in which yeast can, unexpectedly,
serve as a model, solution of genetic mysteries, cell
biology, cell cycle and expansion of work in all the
usual areas of genetics and biochemistry.
With the completion of the Saccharomyces
genome sequence, the approaching completion of
the Schizosaccharomyces pombe project, and ongoing projects to sequence Kluyveromyces lactis and
other yeasts and fungi, we have entered a new
phase of ‘functional analysis’ in which genomic
approaches to analysis of gene function are being
developed and applied. Chip-based methods of
scanning the transcription of all yeast genes in one
experiment have made Northern blots blush. Sets
of disruption strains covering all non-essential
genes are under development, and methods to
screen such sets for functions are being applied.
The psychology of gene hunting has changed with
these developments. No longer is one going out
into the genetic wilderness to hunt for a gene of a
particular type. Rather, the new expectation is to
find all the genes of a specific description. The ‘one
gene–one investigator’ model of research may now
be obsolete.
Although the genome project revealed the existence of many homologues of important mammalian genes, it is also humbling in that we must
*Correspondence to: Reed B. Wickner, Bldg. 8, Room 225,
N.I.H., 8 Center Drive MSC 0830, Bethesda, MD 20892-0830,
U.S.A. Tel.: (301) 496-3452; fax: (301) 402-0240; e-mail:
wickner@helix.nih.gov
CCC 0749–503X/98/161437–02 $17.50
1998 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
realize that some critical mammalian genes (e.g.,
p53) have no yeast homologue. Of course, the true
yeast devoté would argue that this proves that such
genes are not really as important as had been
believed. Perhaps one benefit of examining several
different yeasts will be the finding that certain
mammalian genes are found in some yeasts, but
not others. It is already clear that a given signal
transduction path may have one role in one yeast,
and another in another yeast, just as its role may
vary among tissues of a mammal.
The genetic tools that make yeasts so useful
continue to be developed and applied. Two hybrid,
multicopy suppressor, and synthetic lethal screens
have for some years been making connections
among functionally related genes, and in some
areas the bewildering array of interactions revealed
by such studies give the impression that most of
the proteins of the cell must form a large complex
to explain the results. ‘Three hybrid’ and ‘one
hybrid’ methods are among the extensions now in
use. These tools now also include sophisticated
computational methods and web sites reviewed in
this issue by Dolinski et al. (4).
Until about 10 years ago, the yeast field was
characterized by recruitment of workers from
other areas of genetics (particularly bacteria and
phage) and from biochemists and cell biologists
who saw opportunities beyond those available in
their original organism of training. The character
of recruitment has recently changed, however, so
that yeasts are used by workers in other fields just
as yeast people use E. coli. YAC vectors and the
two hybrid system may have started this trend. But
many other cases have arisen. Apoptosis is not a
natural feature of yeast, but Bax and Bcl-2 act in

1438
yeast just as they do in animal cells to produce and
prevent apoptosis, but now yeast can be used to
analyse what happens. This could be called ‘synthetic biology’. Some mammalian transcription
regulators that have no homologues in yeast none
the less regulate transcription in yeast if enough of
the mammalian components are brought into
yeast. Saccharomyces is not a natural host for
replication of Brome Mosaic virus or Flock House
virus, but both replicate well, the latter to high
titre, in yeast.
Perhaps the most striking example of this
recruitment phenomenon is in the cell cycle and
oncogene field. One repeatedly hears seminars and
reads papers from the mammalian oncogene-cell
cycle world in which it is stated, ‘We have isolated
this oncogene and we know what it is doing only
because of studies of its homolog in yeast’. Yeast
cell cycle studies have had a truly monumental
impact in this area, a fact that this writer believes
should be recognized in one of the northern
European capitals.
Among the mysteries recently brought to light
are yeast prions, now seen as a broader phenomenon and more firmly established than before.
Epigenetic states, particularly involved in silencing, are benefiting from the application of yeast
methods to their elucidation. Aging of yeast, once
thought to be only a distant analogue, is now
known to be directly related to mammalian aging.
Numerous other examples could be cited of the
usefulness and expanding importance of yeast in
cell biology, biochemistry and the study of fundamental genetic processes. Jamieson has reviewed
1998 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
recent progress in studies of oxidative stress using
yeast (5), Daum et al. summarize investigations of
lipid metabolism (2), and Davey reviews studies of
S. pombe mating (3). The underlying basis of this
success was the early attention to Saccharomyces
as the agent of brewing and baking (see review by
Barnett in this issue (1)). The development of the
classical genetics of yeast, its easy manipulation,
storage, and analysis, and the development of
transformation methods made this yeast the primary model eukaryote, overtaking the earlier
development of Neurospora and Drosophila.
Schizosaccharomyces pombe has provided many
insights in parallel, in some cases appearing to
justify the pombe worker’s ‘we’re closer to mammals’ claim. We are all the beneficiaries of these
earlier discoveries, as we hope our own results will
help future yeast workers.
REFERENCES
Barnett, J. A. (1998). A history of research on yeasts:
work by chemists and biologists 1789–1850. Yeast 14,
1439–1451.
Daum, G., Lees, N. D., Bard, M. and Dickson, R.
(1998). Biochemistry, cell biology and molecular biology of lipids in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Yeast 14,
1471–1510.
Davey, J. (1998). Fusion of a fission yeast. Yeast 14,
1529–1566.
Dolinski, K., Ball, C., Chervitz, S. A., Dwight, S. S.,
Harris, M., Roberts, S., Roe, T. Y., Cherry, J. M. and
Botstein, D. (1998). Expanding yeast knowledge online. Yeast 14, 1453–1469.
Jamieson, D. J. (1998). Oxidative stress responses of the
yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Yeast 14, 1511–1527.
Yeast 14, 1437–1438 (1998)
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