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The Origin, Development and Present Status of the Concept of the Gene A Short Historical Account of the Discoveries

[ Vol. 1 , Issue. 1 ]


Petter Portin   Pages 29 - 40 ( 12 )


The classical view of the gene prevailing during the 1910s and 1930s comprehended the gene as the indivisible unit of genetic transmission, genetic recombination, gene mutation and gene function. The discovery of intragenic recombination in the early 1940s led to the neoclassical concept of the gene, which prevailed until the 1970s. In this view the gene or cistron, as it was now called, was divided into its constituent parts, the mutons and recons materially identified as nucleotides. Each cistron was believed to be responsible for the synthesis of one single mRNA and concurrently for one single polypeptide. The discoveries of DNA technology, beginning in the early 1970s, have led to the second revolution in the concept of the gene in which none of the classical or neoclassical criteria for the definition of the gene hold strictly true. These are the discoveries concerning gene repetition and overlapping, movable genes, complex promoters, multiple polyadenylation sites, polyprotein genes, editing o f the primary transcript and gene nesting. Thus, despite the fact that our comprehension of the structure and organization of the genetic material has greatly increased, we are left with a rather abstract, open and general concept of the gene.


Alternative splicing, Interrupted genes, Repeated genes, Overlapping genes, Movable Genes, Messenger RNA, Polyprotein Genes, Complex Promoters, Multiple polyadenylation sites, Immunoglobulin Genes


Dept. of Biology University of Turku FIN 20014 Finland

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