Related topics: genome · protein · cells · mutations · gene expression

Boost for mouse genetic analysis

To understand what role an individual gene plays, biologists have, for 100 years, been using a trick of nature: While in principle, the genome in all cells of an organism is the same, mutations arise in individual cells. ...

There's more to genes than DNA: How Mum and Dad add something extra

Biologists at the Universities of Bath and Vienna have discovered 71 new 'imprinted' genes in the mouse genome, a finding that takes them a step closer to unraveling some of the mysteries of epigenetics—an area of science ...

Researchers develop most comprehensive RNA atlas to date

By cleverly combining complementary sequencing techniques, researchers of Ghent University, together with Baylor College of Medicine and the world's leading sequencing company, Illumina, have deepened the understanding of ...

Climate warming influences fungal communities on oak leaves

Climate warming plays a larger role than plant genes in influencing the number and identity of fungal species on oak leaves, especially in autumn. Recently published in the journal New Phytologist, this research by ecologists ...

A remote control for gene transfer

The ability to insert desirable genes into animal or human cells is the basis of modern life science research and of widespread biomedical applications. The methods used to date for this purpose are mostly non-specific, making ...

How long-known genes continue to surprise researchers

The human genome was sequenced around 20 years ago. Since then, the sequence information encoding our proteins is known—at least in principle. However, this information is not continuously stored in the individual genes, ...

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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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