Schizosaccharomyces pombe, also called "fission yeast", is a
yeast used in traditional brewing and as a
model organism in
cell biology. It is a unicellular
cells are rod-shaped. Cells typically measure 3 to 4
micrometres in diameter and 7 to 14 micrometres in length. Its
genome, which is approximately 14.1 million base pairs, is estimated to contain 4,970 protein-coding
genes and at least 450
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.
Fission yeast was isolated in 1893 by
Paul Lindner from East African
millet beer. The species name pombe is the
Swahili word for beer. It was first developed as an experimental model in the 1950s: by
Urs Leupold for studying genetics,
 and by
Murdoch Mitchison for studying the cell cycle.
Paul Nurse, a fission yeast researcher, successfully merged the independent schools of fission yeast genetics and cell cycle research. Together with
Lee Hartwell and
Tim Hunt, Nurse won the 2001
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work on cell cycle regulation.
The sequence of the S. pombe
genome was published in 2002, by a consortium led by the
Sanger Institute, becoming the sixth model eukaryotic organism whose
genome has been fully
sequenced. This has fully unlocked the power of this organism, with many genes homologous to human disease genes being identified. 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
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
grapes, or from the various
alcoholic beverages, such as Brazilian
Cachaça. S. pombe is also known to be present in fermented tea,
 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.