meaning of 'synthetic lethality'

Simon Klibisch skl at GBF.DE
Thu Apr 30 07:51:39 EST 1998

> 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?
You are correct. Synthetic is used, because the two mutants alone are not
lethal but once combined by a researcher it is lethal, so the researcher
synthesizes lethality. The only context in which I know that it was used,
was to find out if two proteins interact with each other in some way.
The method is based on a screen for Plasmid instability. You bring into the
yeast the one of the (mostly temperature sensitive) mutants as wt, if the
yeast can afford to loose the plasmid, the colony becomes sectored (or not
(I don´t remember exactly, it´s been a long time).
This assay is called colony sectoring assay.
For more information look for synthetic lethality in context with nuclear
pore complexes. If you can not find anything, I would be able to remove the
dust from my old papers and send you the reference.
Simon Klibisch

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