Functional genomics: lessons from yeast

Abstract

Functional genomics represents a systematic approach to elucidating the function of the novel genes revealed by complete genome sequences. Such an approach should adopt a hierarchical strategy since this will both limit the number of experiments to be performed and permit a closer and closer approximation to the function of any individual gene to be achieved. Moreover, hierarchical analyses have, in their early stages, tremendous integrative power and functional genomics aims at a comprehensive and integrative view of the workings of living cells. The first draft of the human genome sequence has just been produced, and the complete genome sequences of a number of eukaryotic human pathogens (including the parasitic protozoa Plasmodium, Leishmania, and Trypanosoma) will soon be available. However, the most rapid progress in the elucidation of gene function will initially be made using model organisms. Yeast is an excellent eukaryotic model and at least 40% of single–gene determinants of human heritable diseases find homologues in yeast. We have adopted a systematic approach to the functional analysis of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae genome. A number of the approaches for the functional analysis of novel yeast genes are discussed. The different approaches are grouped into four domains: genome, transcriptome, proteome, and metabolome. The utility of genetic, biochemical, and physico–chemical methods for the analysis of these domains is discussed, and the importance of framing precise biological questions, when using these comprehensive analytical methods, is emphasized. Finally, the prospects for elucidating the function of protozoan genes by using the methods pioneered with yeast, and even exploiting Saccharomyces itself, as a surrogate, are explored.