All about Genes: Where, What and How
The origin of the term ‘gene’ comes from the Greek word ‘gonos’, and means offspring. Defined by the Danish botanist Wilhelm Johannsen in 1905, the study of genes is by no means completed, with new discoveries being made every day.
The ‘Where’ of a Gene
Where are genes located? A gene is a tiny section of a long DNA molecule, which are coded with instructions to allow a cell to produce a specific product, usually a protein, or an enzyme, intended to trigger a specific action. The DNA molecules, each containing thousands of genes, are located inside chromosomes. Chromosomes, in turn, are found inside the nucleus of cells. Therefore, an organism can contain hundreds to even millions of gene structures.
The ‘What’ and ‘How’ of a Gene
Now that you know the answer to the question “where are genes located”, let’s see what goes on inside a gene.
A gene is basically a combination, a very long one at that, of four different chemicals, known as nucleotide bases. The way that these four nucleotides combine determines what physical characteristics a person may have. In a human being, there are around 20,000 genes that can be found on one of the 23 pairs of chromosomes found in the cell nucleus. Think of a gene as a recipe for making a certain protein. When a protein needs to be manufactured, enzymes (which are other kinds of special proteins) read the information contained in the DNA sequence, and build a messenger RNA code, which then gets sent to the cell, telling it what protein to make.
As much as scientists have discovered about genes, they’ve learnt that there is still a lot more to be learnt about this fascinating unit that they’ve now come to call the blueprint of life.
- What is a gene in biology