Related topics: genes · cells · genome · dna · chromosomes

Chal­lenging the the­ory of the nar­row host range of phages

Viruses that infect bacteria could one day replace antibiotics because they precisely attack only specific pathogens. Researchers at ETH Zurich are now showing that this is not always the case. This new finding is important ...

Fuzzy molecular threesome is basis of gene expression

Specific nuclear proteins act as a glue to pack genetic material in an absurdly small space in the human body. Proteins "gluing" DNA are called linker histones, and hold their secret in their electric charge. They are strongly ...

Most dog breeds highly inbred

Dog breeds are often recognized for distinctive traits—the short legs of a dachshund, wrinkled face of a pug, spotted coat of a Dalmatian. Unfortunately, the genetics that give various breeds their particular attributes ...

Flu virus shells could improve delivery of mRNA into cells

Nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a new and potentially more effective way to deliver messenger RNA (mRNA) into cells. Their approach involves packing mRNA inside nanoparticles that mimic ...

Male-biased protein expression discovered in fruit flies

Fruit flies (Drosophila) are important model organisms for biological research. Molecular tools exist that can turn on (or induce) gene expression in fruit flies, allowing researchers to learn more about the functions of ...

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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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