Carl Zimmer writes for The New York Times: How Simple Can Life Get? It’s Complicated – “Scientists have long wondered how much further life can be stripped down and still remain alive. Is there a genetic essence of life? The answer seems to be that the true essence of life is not some handful of genes, but coexistence.”
How Many Genes Can Make a Cell: The Minimal-Gene-Set Concept, Koonin EV, Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2000;1:99-116.
Essential genes of a minimal bacteriumJohn I. Glass, 425–430, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0510013103
Essence of life: essential genes of minimal genomes. Juhas M, Eberl L, Glass JI., Trends Cell Biol. 2011 Oct;21(10):562-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2011.07.005. Epub 2011 Sep 1.
A central undertaking in synthetic biology (SB) is the quest for the ‘minimal genome’. However, ‘minimal sets’ of essential genes are strongly context-dependent and, in all prokaryotic genomes sequenced to date, not a single protein-coding gene is entirely conserved. Furthermore, a lack of consensus in the field as to what attributes make a gene truly essential adds another aspect of variation. Thus, a universal minimal genome remains elusive.