The 2 micron plasmid of Saccharomyces cerevisiae: A miniaturized selfish genome with optimized functional competence

Keng Ming Chan, Yen Ting Liu, Chien Hui Ma, Makkuni Jayaram, Soumitra Sau*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The 2 micron plasmid of Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a relatively small multi-copy selfish DNA element that resides in the yeast nucleus at a copy number of 40-60 per haploid cell. The plasmid is able to persist in host populations with almost chromosome-like stability with the help of a partitioning system and a copy number control system. The first part of this article describes the properties of the partitioning system comprising two plasmid coded proteins, Rep1 and Rep2, and a partitioning locus STB. Current evidence supports a model in which the Rep-. STB system couples plasmid segregation to chromosome segregation by promoting the physical association of plasmid molecules with chromosomes. In the second part, the focus is on the Flp site-specific recombination system housed by the plasmid, which plays a critical role in maintaining steady state plasmid copy number. The Flp system corrects any decrease in plasmid population by promoting plasmid amplification via a recombination induced rolling circle replication mechanism. Appropriate plasmid amplification, without runaway increase in copy number, is ensured by positive and negative regulation of FLP gene expression by plasmid coded proteins and by the control of Flp level/activity through post-translational modification of Flp by the cellular sumoylation system. The Flp system has been successfully utilized to understand mechanisms of site-specific recombination and to bring about directed genetic alterations for addressing fundamental problems in biology and for accomplishing bio-engineering objectives. A particularly interesting, and perhaps less well known and underappreciated, application of Flp in revealing unique DNA topologies required to confer functional competence to DNA-protein machines is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-17
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Chromosome-hitchhiking
  • Difference topology
  • Plasmid amplification
  • Plasmid partitioning
  • Selfish DNA
  • Site-specific recombination


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