The Blueprint of a Minimal Cell: MiniBacillus

Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2016 Sep 28;80(4):955-987. doi: 10.1128/MMBR.00029-16. Print 2016 Dec.


Bacillus subtilis is one of the best-studied organisms. Due to the broad knowledge and annotation and the well-developed genetic system, this bacterium is an excellent starting point for genome minimization with the aim of constructing a minimal cell. We have analyzed the genome of B. subtilis and selected all genes that are required to allow life in complex medium at 37°C. This selection is based on the known information on essential genes and functions as well as on gene and protein expression data and gene conservation. The list presented here includes 523 and 119 genes coding for proteins and RNAs, respectively. These proteins and RNAs are required for the basic functions of life in information processing (replication and chromosome maintenance, transcription, translation, protein folding, and secretion), metabolism, cell division, and the integrity of the minimal cell. The completeness of the selected metabolic pathways, reactions, and enzymes was verified by the development of a model of metabolism of the minimal cell. A comparison of the MiniBacillus genome to the recently reported designed minimal genome of Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn3.0 indicates excellent agreement in the information-processing pathways, whereas each species has a metabolism that reflects specific evolution and adaptation. The blueprint of MiniBacillus presented here serves as the starting point for a successive reduction of the B. subtilis genome.

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