Historical development of the concept of the Gene

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 27 (3):257 – 286 (2002)
Abstract
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 of the primary transcript, pseudogenes 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 , open and general concept of the gene. This article discusses past and present contemplations of genes, genomes, genotypes and phenotypes as well as the most recent advances of the study of the organization of genomes.
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