A solution to prevent beer bottle explosions

Some contaminant yeasts make beer bottles and cans explode. Apart from being dangerous for consumers these 'diastatic' yeasts also cause loss of beer batches due to off-flavours, increased alcohol and over-carbonation in ...

How synthetic biology can help the environment

Most environmental science is focused on how to turn back the clock, not push it forward, says Ben Bostick, a geochemist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. "We think about how we can roll back our footprint, and not so ...

The two faces of the Jekyll gene

Genes specific to a species or group of species can reflect important genetic changes within lineages. Often, such lineage-specific genes are found to play a role within sexual reproduction, thus promoting reproductive isolation ...

New genes out of nothing

One key question in evolutionary biology is how novel genes arise and develop. Swedish researchers now show how new genes and functions that are advantageous to bacteria can be selected from random DNA sequences. The results ...

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Gene

A gene is the basic unit of heredity in a living organism. All living things depend on genes. Genes hold the information to build and maintain their cells and pass genetic traits to offspring. A modern working definition of a gene is "a locatable region of genomic sequence, corresponding to a unit of inheritance, which is associated with regulatory regions, transcribed regions, and or other functional sequence regions " . In common usage, the term gene often refers to what is known more accurately as an allele.

The notion of a gene has evolved with the science of genetics, which began when Gregor Mendel noticed that biological variations are inherited from parent organisms as specific, discrete traits. The biological entity responsible for defining traits was termed a gene, but the biological basis for inheritance remained unknown until DNA was identified as the genetic material in the 1940s. All organisms have many genes corresponding to many different biological traits, some of which are immediately visible, such as eye color or number of limbs, and some of which are not, such as blood type or increased risk for specific diseases, or the thousands of basic biochemical processes that comprise life.

In cells, a gene is a portion of DNA that contains both "coding" sequences that determine what the gene does, and "non-coding" sequences that determine when the gene is active (expressed). When a gene is active, the coding and non-coding sequences are copied in a process called transcription, producing an RNA copy of the gene's information. This piece of RNA can then direct the synthesis of proteins via the genetic code. In other cases, the RNA is used directly, for example as part of the ribosome. The molecules resulting from gene expression, whether RNA or protein, are known as gene products, and are responsible for the development and functioning of all living things.

In more technical terms, a gene is a locatable region of genomic sequence, corresponding to a unit of inheritance, and is associated with regulatory regions, transcribed regions and/or other functional sequence regions. The physical development and phenotype of organisms can be thought of as a product of genes interacting with each other and with the environment. A concise definition of a gene, taking into account complex patterns of regulation and transcription, genic conservation and non-coding RNA genes, has been proposed by Gerstein et al.: "A gene is a union of genomic sequences encoding a coherent set of potentially overlapping functional products".

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