Testing theoretical minimal genomes using whole-cell models

Joshua P Rees-Garbutt*, Jake Rightmyer, Oliver Chalkley, Lucia Marucci*, Claire S Grierson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Background: The minimal gene set for life has often been theorised, with at least ten produced for Mycoplasma genitalium (M. genitalium). Due to the difficulty of using M. genitalium in the lab, combined with its long replication time of 12 - 15 hours, none of these theoretical minimal genomes have been tested, even with modern techniques. The publication of the M. genitalium whole-cell model provided the first opportunity to test them, simulating the genome edits in-silico.
Results: We simulated eight minimal gene sets from the literature, finding that they produced in-silico cells that did not divide. Using knowledge from previous research, we reintroduced specific essential and low essential genes in-silico; this enabled the cells to divide.
Conclusions: This reinforces the need to identify species-specific low essential genes and their interactions. Any genome designs created using the currently incomplete and fragmented gene essentiality information, will very likely require in-vivo reintroductions to correct issues and produce dividing cells.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGenome Biology
Publication statusSubmitted - 10 Sept 2020

Structured keywords

  • Bristol BioDesign Institute
  • BrisSynBio


  • synthetic biology


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