Properties of Genes Essential for Mouse Development

Mitra Kabir, Ana Barradas, George T. Tzotzos , Kathryn Hentges, Andrew Doig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Essential genes are those that are critical for life. In the specific case of the mouse, they are the set of genes whose deletion means that a mouse is unable to survive after birth. As such, they are the key minimal set of genes needed for all the steps of development to produce an organism capable of life ex utero. We explored a wide range of sequence and functional features to characterise essential (lethal) and non-essential (viable) genes in mice. Experimental data curated manually identified 1301 essential genes and 3451 viable genes. Very many sequence features show highly significant differences between essential and viable mouse genes. Essential genes generally encode complex proteins, with multiple domains and many introns. These genes tend to be: long, highly expressed, old and evolutionarily conserved. These genes tend to encode ligases, transferases, phosphorylated proteins, intracellular proteins, nuclear proteins, and hubs in protein-protein interaction networks. They are involved with regulating protein-protein interactions, gene expression and metabolic processes, cell morphogenesis, cell division, cell proliferation, DNA replication, cell differentiation, DNA repair and transcription, cell differentiation and embryonic development. Viable genes tend to encode: membrane proteins or secreted proteins, and are associated with functions such as cellular communication, apoptosis, behaviour and immune response, as well as housekeeping and tissue specific functions. Viable genes are linked to transport, ion channels, signal transduction, calcium binding and lipid binding, consistent with their location in membranes and involvement with cell-cell communication. From the analysis of the composite features of essential and viable genes, we conclude that essential genes tend to be required for intracellular functions, and viable genes tend to be involved with extracellular functions and cell-cell communication. Knowledge of the features that are over-represented in essential genes allows for a deeper understanding of the functions and processes implemented during mammalian development
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0178273
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Early online date31 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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