Genomics and Proteomics Have Transformed Biological Inquiry and Applications


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Genomics and Proteomics Have Transformed Biological Inquiry and Applications (Campbell Biology)

Experimental work in the first half of the 20th century established the role of DNA as the bearer of genetic information, passed from generation to generation, that specified the functioning of living cells and organisms. Once the structure of the DNA molecule was described in 1953, and the linear sequence of nucleotide bases was understood to specify the amino acid sequence of proteins, biologists sought to “decode” genes by learning their nucleotide sequences (often called “base sequences”).

The first chemical techniques for DNA sequencing, or determining the sequence of nucleotides along a DNA strand, one by one, were developed in the 1970s. Researchers began to study gene sequences, gene by gene, and the more they learned, the more questions they had: How was expression of genes regulated? Genes and their protein products clearly interacted with each other, but how? What was the function, if any, of the DNA that is not part of genes? To fully understand the genetic functioning of a living organism, the entire sequence of the full complement of DNA, the organism’s genome, would be most enlightening. In spite of the apparent impracticality of this idea, in the late 1980s several prominent biologists put forth an audacious proposal to launch a project that would sequence the entire human genome—all 3 billion bases of it! This endeavor began in 1990 and was effectively completed in the early 2000s.

An unplanned but profound side benefit of this project— the Human Genome Project—was the rapid development of faster and less expensive methods of sequencing. This trend has continued: The cost for sequencing 1 million bases in 2001, well over $5,000, has decreased to less than $0.02 in 2016. And a human genome, the first of which took over 10 years to sequence, could be completed at today’s pace in just a few days (Figure 5.25). The number of genomes that have been fully sequenced has burgeoned, generating reams of data and prompting development of bioinformatics, the use of computer software and other computational tools that can handle and analyze these large data sets.

The reverberations of these developments have transformed the study of biology and related fields. Biologists often look at problems by analyzing large sets of genes or even comparing whole genomes of different species, an approach called genomics. A similar analysis of large sets of proteins, including their sequences, is called proteomics. (Protein sequences can be determined either by using biochemical techniques or by translating the DNA sequences that code for them.) These approaches permeate all fields of biology.

Perhaps the most significant impact of genomics and proteomics on the field of biology as a whole has been their contributions to our understanding of evolution. In addition to confirming evidence for evolution from the study of fossils and characteristics of currently existing species, genomics has helped us tease out relationships among different groups of organisms that had not been resolved by previous types of evidence, and thus infer evolutionary history.


Urry, Lisa A.. Campbell Biology. Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.


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