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Genomics. 2001 Sep;77(1-2):71-8.

Assessment of the total number of human transcription units.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, McGill University, Rm 810, 3655 Drummond St., Montreal, Quebec, H3G 1Y6, Canada.


Variation in the estimates of the number of genes encoded by the human genome (28,000-120,000) attests to the difficulty of systematically identifying human genes. Sequencing of human chromosome 22 (Chr22) provided the first comprehensive, unbiased view of an entire human chromosome, and intensive analysis of this sequence identified 545 genes and 134 pseudogenes that had similarity or identity to known proteins and/or ESTs and which were listed in the gene annotation (http://www.sanger.ac.uk/HGP/Chr22). This analysis yielded an estimate of approximately 36,000 functional expressed genes in the human genome (and 9000 pseudogenes). However, a key uncertainty in this estimate was that hundreds of additional genes beyond those annotated in the Chr22 sequence are predicted by the gene prediction program Genscan, an unknown number of which might represent additional expressed genes. To determine what fraction of these "predicted novel genes" (PNGs) represents expressed human genes, we used a sensitive RT-PCR assay to detect predicted transcripts in 17 tissues and one cell line. Our results indicate that at least 5000-9000 additional human genes which lack similarity to known genes or proteins exist in the human genome, increasing baseline gene estimates to approximately 41,000-45,000.

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