Monday, 2 August 2010

The gene concept and its context

The classical molecular concept of gene is not sufficient to explain several biological processes observed in studies performed in the last two or three decades. The idea of an one-to-one relationship between DNA and protein implies a structural and functional unity; however, the molecular biology showed us that some molecular phenomena like alternative RNA splicing, overlapping genes, and multiple transcription start sites, suggest that the one-to-one relationship is an oversimplification. This concept is no longer useful, except as a handy expression, whose meaning is dependent on the context. Among the several approaches to the multiple usages of gene, one that deserves attention is the concept of the gene as a “fuzzy unity”, which states the genomically diverse nature of the gene. Although this vagueness might have heuristic value, there’s a clear need for more precision. As stated by Eva Neumann-Held in "Cycles of contingency" , whatever the concept of gene is, it should consider the clarification of the purpose and the research context for which the concept is designed.

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