Genetics and Evolution

How are genes physically found in a specific genome?

Finding one gene out of a possible 30,000 to 40,000 genes in the human genome is a difficult task. However, the process is made easier if the protein product of the gene is known. As an example, if a researcher is looking to find the gene for mouse hemoglobin, he or she would isolate the hemoglobin from mouse blood and determine the amino acid sequence. The amino acid sequence could then be used as a template to generate the nucleotide sequence. Working backward again, a complementary DNA probe to the sequence would be used to identify DNA molecules with the same sequence from the entire mouse genomic library.

However, if the protein product is not known, the task is more difficult. An example of this would be that of finding the susceptibility gene for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. DNA samples would be collected from family members of a patient with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The DNA would be cut with restriction endonucleases, and restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs) would be compared among the family. If certain RFLPs are only found when the disease gene is present, then it is assumed that the distinctive fragments are markers for the gene. Geneticists then sequence the DNA in the same area of the chromosome where the marker was found, looking for potential gene candidates.


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