In order to clarify their physiological functions, we have undertaken a characterization of the three-membered gene families SNZ1–3 and SNO1–3. In media lacking vitamin B6, SNZ1 and SNO1 were both required for growth in certain conditions, but neither SNZ2, SNZ3, SNO2 nor SNO3 were required. Copies 2 and 3 of the gene products have, in spite of their extremely close sequence similarity, slightly different functions in the cell. We have also found that copies 2 and 3 are activated by the lack of thiamine and that the Snz proteins physically interact with the thiamine biosynthesis Thi5 protein family. Whereas copy 1 is required for conditions in which B6 is essential for growth, copies 2 and 3 seem more related with B1 biosynthesis during the exponential phase. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.