Synthetic Lethality

S L Forsburg forsburg at
Wed Apr 29 23:38:38 EST 1998

> mlamphier at

> I have come across a term in yeast 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?

Synthetic phenotypes are indeed those which result from 
combining two mutants, and are distinguishable from either
single mutant.  The word synthetic essentially means
that you had to put two things together to see the
phenotype.  Synthetic lethal means that the combined
phenotype is death.  

If you had two ts mutants which when combined 
suppressed each other and allowed growth at the 
restricitve tempearture, that too would be a 
"synthetic phenotype". 

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S L Forsburg, PhD  forsburg at
Molecular Biology and Virology Lab          
The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA
"These are my opinions.  I don't have  
time to speak for anyone else."

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