1 minute read


Number Of Nuclear Genes, "gene Density," And Intergenic Sequences

An important trend in genome evolution has been the accumulation, both within the genes (intragenic) and between genes (intergenic), of DNA that does not code for any gene products. Homo sapiens have between 31,000 and 70,000 genes; mice have 24,780; Caenorhabditis elegans (a roundworm) has more than 19,099; fruit flies have 13,601; and yeast approximately 6,000. A ratio of gene number to C value indicates that lower organisms have both smaller genes and lower numbers of nongene base pairs between adjacent genes. Higher eukaryotes have a larger number of intragenic inserts (introns), greater intergenic distances, and more abundant repeated sequences.

In higher eukaryotes, only a small portion of the genome is organized into genes. For example, in humans less than 2 percent of the genome specifies protein products. Another portion (about 20 percent in humans) is present as gene fragments, pseudogenes (sequences that resemble genes but are not expressed as proteins), and surrounding stretches of nucleotides. The vast majority of nucleotides (approximately 75 percent in humans) constitute extragenic sequences. Two forms of extragenic sequences are prominent: unique sequences and repetitive sequences.

For repetitive sequences, two types of organization occur: short tandem repeats (called satellite sequences) and widely distributed, interspersed repeats. Satellites are recurrent short sequences present in essential chromosomal structures such as centromeres and telomeres. Interspersed repeats are generated from transposons, which are nucleotide sequences that can replicate themselves and become distributed throughout the genome. An example of interspersed repeats that occurs in humans is a sequence of a few hundred nucleotides called Alu, which occurs approximately a million times. In higher plants, satellites and interspersed sequences constitute the bulk of the genome.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaGenetics in Medicine - Part 2Genome - Eukaryotes, Chromosome Number, Genome Size Or C Value, Number Of Nuclear Genes, "gene Density," And Intergenic Sequences