These cells maintain their shape by growing exclusively through the cell tips and divide by medial fission to produce two daughter cells of equal size, which makes them a powerful tool in cell cycle research.
The sequence of the S. pombegenome was published in 2002, by a consortium led by the Sanger Institute, becoming the sixth model eukaryotic organism whose genome has been fully sequenced. S. pombe researchers are supported by the PomBase MOD (Model Organism Database). This has fully unlocked the power of this organism, with many genes orthologous to human genes identified - 70% to date, including many genes involved in human disease. In 2006, sub-cellular localization of almost all the proteins in S. pombe was published using green fluorescent protein as a molecular tag.
Schizosaccharomyces pombe has also become an important organism in studying the cellular responses to DNA damage and the process of DNA replication.
Approximately 160 natural strains of S. pombe have been isolated. These have been collected from a variety of locations including Europe, North and South America, and Asia. The majority of these strains have been collected from cultivated fruits such as apples and grapes, or from the various alcoholic beverages, such as Brazilian Cachaça. S. pombe is also known to be present in fermented tea, kombucha. It is not clear at present whether S. pombe is the major fermenter or a contaminant in such brews. The natural ecology of Schizosaccharomyces yeasts is not well-studied.
Schizosaccharomyces pombe was first discovered in 1893 when a group working in a Brewery Association Laboratory in Germany was looking at sediment found in millet beer imported from East Africa that gave it an acidic taste. The term schizo, meaning "split" or "fission", had previously been used to describe other Schizosaccharomycetes. The addition of the word pombe was due to its isolation from East African beer, as pombe means "beer" in Swahili. The standard S. pombe strains were isolated by Urs Leupold in 1946 and 1947 from a culture that he obtained from the yeast collection in Delft, The Netherlands. It was deposited there by A. Osterwalder under the name S. pombe var. liquefaciens, after he isolated it in 1924 from French wine (most probably rancid) at the Federal Experimental Station of Vini- and Horticulture in Wädenswil, Switzerland. The culture used by Urs Leupold contained (besides others) cells with the mating types h90 (strain 968), h- (strain 972), and h+ (strain 975). Subsequent to this, there have been two large efforts to isolate S. pombe from fruit, nectar, or fermentations: one by Florenzano et al. in the vineyards of western Sicily, and the other by Gomes et al. (2002) in four regions of southeast Brazil.