In 2003, an initial study on essential genes in the Gram-positive model bacterium described 271 genes as essential. In the past decade, the functions of many unknown genes and their encoded proteins have been elucidated. Moreover, detailed analyses have revealed that 31 genes that were thought to be essential are in fact non-essential whereas 20 novel essential genes have been described. Thus, 261 genes coding for 259 proteins and two functional RNAs are regarded essential as of January 2013. Among the essential proteins, the largest group is involved in protein synthesis, secretion and protein quality control. Other large sets of essential proteins are involved in lipid biosynthesis, cell wall metabolism and cell division, and DNA replication. Another interesting group of essential proteins protects the cell against endogenous toxic proteins, metabolites, or other intermediates. There are only six essential proteins in B. subtilis, for which no function is known. The functional analysis of these important proteins is predicted to be a key issue in the research on this model organism in the coming years.
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