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Genetics and Genomics Timeline
Hundreds of scientists sequence yeast

In April 1996, some 600 scientists around the world finished sequencing the genome of baker’s yeast, an organism that carries versions of many human genes. Yeast was the third species, after two types of bacteria, to have its genome completely sequenced.

Scanning electron micrograph of S. cerevisiae.

Baker’s yeast, or Saccharomyces cerevisiae, had been used for decades in the laboratory to investigate basic questions in biology. In the early 1990s, many scientists believed that the yeast genome sequence would be an essential tool for interpreting the human genome sequence once it became available.

The yeast genome project included researchers from Europe, North America, and Japan. Early on, they divided up the genome and worked on regions of the 16 yeast chromosomes. Throughout the project, members of the consortium communicated by email and used the Internet to share data, often posting their results on a daily basis.

More than half of the yeast genome was sequenced by 92 small laboratories in Europe. These labs specialized in yeast research but were not equipped to do DNA sequencing on a large scale. By contrast, the rest of the genome was done in a largely automated manner at five larger centers.

The project found that yeast has about 6,000 genes. Reporting their results in Science, the researchers highlighted the contributions of the small laboratories and said the project had been driven by “enthusiasm, determination, and cooperation.”

For current news visit GNN’s Yeast Page.

Goffeau, A. et al. Life with 6000 genes. Science 546, 563-567 (October 25, 1996).

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