PLoS Comput Biol. 2019 Apr 11;15(4):e1006507. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1006507. eCollection 2019 Apr.
The identification of genes essential for bacterial growth and survival represents a promising strategy for the discovery of antimicrobial targets. Essential genes can be identified on a genome-scale using transposon mutagenesis approaches; however, variability between screens and challenges with interpretation of essentiality data hinder the identification of both condition-independent and condition-dependent essential genes. To illustrate the scope of these challenges, we perform a large-scale comparison of multiple published Pseudomonas aeruginosa gene essentiality datasets, revealing substantial differences between the screens. We then contextualize essentiality using genome-scale metabolic network reconstructions and demonstrate the utility of this approach in providing functional explanations for essentiality and reconciling differences between screens. Genome-scale metabolic network reconstructions also enable a high-throughput, quantitative analysis to assess the impact of media conditions on the identification of condition-independent essential genes. Our computational model-driven analysis provides mechanistic insight into essentiality and contributes novel insights for design of future gene essentiality screens and the identification of core metabolic processes.