meaning of "synthetic lethality"

Michael Dorsett Onken mdonken at
Thu Apr 30 09:38:17 EST 1998

John S Jacobs Anderson (jacobs at wrote:
: In article <6i7oe2$7d8$1 at>, marc_lamphier at wrote:

: >I have come across a term in genetics I am
: >unfamiliar with. In a paper I am looking at the
: >researchers investigate combinations of mutations
: >for "synthetic lethality". This term seems to mean
: >simply that each individual mutation is non-lethal
: >but the two combined are lethal. Is this a correct
: >understanding, and what is the meaning of
: >"synthetic" here?

: You've got it -- synthetic lethality is when you have two non-lethal
: mutations that cause death when combined.

: I think the 'synthesis' is used in the sense of 'production' -- i.e.,
: death is produced when the mutations are combined.

: HTH,
: john.

Actually, 'synthesis' is defined as 'the combination of two or more
elements to form a whole' in the dictionary.  This applies to chemical
synthesis: combining simpler molecules to form a complex molecule.  And
remember the Hegelian dialectic where Thesis and Antithesis are combined
to form a Synthesis.  I think synthetic is actually being used
correctly... for once.



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