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In massive genome analysis ENCODE data suggests 'gene' redefinition
Date:9/5/2012

Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. Most people understand genes to be specific segments of DNA that determine traits or diseases that are inherited. Textbooks suggest that genes are copied ("transcribed") into RNA molecules, which are then used as templates for making protein the highly diverse set of molecules that act as building blocks and engines of our cells. The truth, it now appears, is not so simple.

As part of a huge collaborative effort called ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements), a research team led by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) Professor Thomas Gingeras, Ph.D., today publishes a genome-wide analysis of RNA messages, called transcripts, produced within human cells.

Their analysis one component of a massive release of research results by ENCODE teams from 32 institutes in 5 countries, with 30 papers appearing today in 3 different high-level scientific journals-- shows that three-quarters of the genome is capable of being transcribed. This figure is important because it indicates that nearly all of our genome is dynamic and active. It stands in marked contrast to consensus views prior to ENCODE's comprehensive research efforts, which suggested that only the small protein-encoding fraction of the genome was transcribed, and therefore important.

The vast amount of data generated with advanced technologies by Gingeras' group and others in the ENCODE project is likely to radically change the prevailing understanding of what defines a gene, the unit we routinely use, for instance, to speak of inheritable traits like eye color or to explain the causes of and susceptibility to most diseases, running the gamut from cancer to schizophrenia to heart disease.

In 2003 the ENCODE project consortium was set up by the U.S. government's National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) to examine the newly minted sequence of the human genome in greater depth. At the time, the genome was thought of as a linear molecule of DNA
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Contact: Edward Brydon
ebrydon@cshl.edu
516-367-6822
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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