Background: In most eukaryotic cells, there is a relationship between cell size and proliferative capacity. For example, in order to commit to cell division, the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae must attain a "critical cell size." This mechanism coordinates growth with cell division to maintain cell size homeostasis. Because very few cell size control genes are known, the genetic pathways responsible for cell size homeostasis remain obscure. Furthermore, elucidation of the mechanism of cell size homeostasis has been recalcitrant to genetic analysis primarily due to the difficulty in cloning cell size control genes.
Results: To identify new size control genes, the effect of 5958 single gene deletions (4792 homozygous and 1166 heterozygous gene deletions) on cell size in yeast grown to saturation was systematically determined. From these data, 49 genes were identified that dramatically altered cell size. Of these, 34 are involved in transcription, signal transduction, or cell cycle control; 88% of these genes have putative human homologs. Sixteen genes regulate cell size in a dosage-dependent manner, and the majority of mutants identified fail to correctly exit the cell cycle. Many of these genes are components of Ccr4-Not transcriptional complexes or function in the PKC-MAP kinase pathway. These genes may modulate cell size by altering the expression or activity of G1-phase cyclins.
Conclusions: These results illustrate how systematic genetic screens can be used to dissect intricate biological processes that are refractory to classic genetic approaches. This genomic-wide genetic screen yielded 46 new cell size mutants and systematically assessed the effect of 5958 single gene deletions on cell size as cells exited the cell cycle.