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  Section: General Biotechnology / Genes & Genetic Engineering
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Genes : Nature, Concept and Synthesis


Gene Organization

The DNA molecules that make up the heredi­tary elements are called the genome. The func­tional region of the ge­nome is called genes. In a complex genome only a small part is functional, in that it is coded into a pro­tein with the amino acid sequence determined by the DNA sequence. An­other small part performs regulatory role by deter­mining the time and extent of decoding in the life of an organism. Protein-cod­ing DNA, along with as­sociated regulatory se­quences, makes it sense. A major part of genome is composed of highly repetitive sequences of function which were previously termed 'junk' or 'selfish' DNA.

The DNA is a linear string of symbols, A,T,G and C. Proteins are synthesized by reading a code from DNA sequence, with a triplet of nucleotides (a codon) corresponding to a given amino acid. Since 20 amino acids are the constituents of naturally occurring proteins, and there are 64 (= 43) codons, the genetic code is degenerate. The genetic code also includes a rule for initiation of protein synthesis (the start codon) and a rule to signal the end (the three stop or non-sense codons) (Fig. 2.9).

  Schematic presentation of different regions in and around a gene in a genomic sequence showing the organization of exons, introns, initiation and termination sites, intergenic spacers and promoters (after Tewari et al., 1996)  

Fig. 2.9. Schematic presentation of different regions in and around a gene in a genomic sequence showing the organization of exons, introns, initiation and termination sites, intergenic spacers and promoters (after Tewari et al., 1996)



Chemical nature of DNA


Chemical composition


Nucleotides, nucleosides




Chargaff's rule of equivalence

Physical nature of DNA


Watson and Cricks model of DNA


Circular and superhelical DNA


Organization of DNA in eukaryotes

Structure of RNA

Gene concept

Units of a gene







Split genes (introns)


RNA splicing




Evolution of split genes

Overlapping gene

Gene organization

Gene expression

Gene regulation





The lac operon (structural gene, operator gene, promoter gene and repressor gene)

Artificial synthesis of genes


Synthesis of a gene for yeast alanine tRNA


Synthesis of a gene for bacterial tyrosine tRNA


Synthesis of a human leukocyte interferon gene

Gene synthesis by using mRNA

Gene machine



Amplification of DNA (melting of target DNA, annealing of primers, primer extension)


Application of PCR technology


The prokaryotic genes are often continuous open reading frames (ORFs) i.e. they are no misprints or interruption, while eukaryotic gene is split into several discrete segments called 'exons' which are interspersed with non-coding intermediate regions i.e. the introns. Exon may be mixed and matched in various combinations to create new genes. Some times exon of one gene may be intron of another gene. The entire gene is transcribed into an RNA molecule, from which introns are spliced out resulting in mRNA. The mRNA is a continuous ORF which is translated into corresponding polypeptide. There are also ancillary regions or the DNA which regulate and control the expression of proteins at specific time and under specific conditions (Tewari et al, 1996).

There are several ongoing projects to sequence the entire genome of a number of organisms. The complete genome map of some important organisms may come within a few years, for example, Drosophila melenogaster (genome length =165 million bp, consisting of=15000 genes), E. coli (4.7 Mbp, 3000 genes), Saccharomyces cerevisiae (12.50 Mbp, 6400 genes), Arabidopsis thaliana (100 Mbp, 13100 genes), nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (100 Mbp, 15000 genes), Fugu rubripes (390 Mbp, 80000 genes) and the human genome. Recently, entire genome map of Haemophilus influenzae (1.83 Mbp, 1727 genes) and Mycoplasms genitalium (0.58 Mbp, 482 genes) have been sequenced.


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