Minimal Cells-Real and Imagined
Glass JI, Merryman C, Wise KS, Hutchison CA, Smith HO
A minimal cell is one whose genome only encodes the minimal set of genes necessary for the cell to survive. Scientific reductionism postulates the best way to learn the first principles of cellular biology would be to use a minimal cell in which the functions of all genes and components are understood. The genes in a minimal cell are, by definition, essential. In 2016, synthesis of a genome comprised of only the set of essential and quasi-essential genes encoded by the bacterium created a near-minimal bacterial cell. This organism performs the cellular functions common to all organisms. It replicates DNA, transcribes RNA, translates proteins, undergoes cell division, and little else. In this review, we examine this organism and contrast it with other bacteria that have been used as surrogates for a minimal cell.