Investigation of essential genes, besides contributing to understanding the fundamental principles of life, has numerous practical applications. Essential genes can be exploited as building blocks of a tightly controlled cell 'chassis'. Bacillus subtilis and Escherichia coli K-12 are both well-characterized model bacteria used as hosts for a plethora of biotechnological applications. Determination of the essential genes that constitute the B. subtilis and E. coli minimal genomes is therefore of the highest importance. Recent advances have led to the modification of the original B. subtilis and E. coli essential gene sets identified 10 years ago. Furthermore, significant progress has been made in the area of genome minimization of both model bacteria. This review provides an update, with particular emphasis on the current essential gene sets and their comparison with the original gene sets identified 10 years ago. Special attention is focused on the genome reduction analyses in B. subtilis and E. coli and the construction of minimal cell factories for industrial applications.
© 2014 The Authors.