So what is a gene, exactly?

By Hilary Miller 13/12/2009


Ever wondered just what a “gene” is, exactly? Well turns out that even geneticists are wondering the same thing these days, as they learn more about the genome and find that the concept of what comprises a gene is becoming more and more vague.

This months BioScience journal has an interesting (open-access) article on how the definition of a gene is changing. 

With the discovery that nearly all of the genome is transcribed, the definition of a ’gene’ needs another revision.

The article describes how the old definitions based around protein function (genes are units of DNA that code for proteins) have had to be expanded with the discovery that a large portion of the genome is transcribed into RNAs that don’t go on to make proteins, but have an important functional role themselves.

Citation:  Hopkins, K (2009). The Evolving Definition of a Gene. BioScience 59(11):928-931. doi: 10.1525/bio.2009.59.11.3