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Ann Bot. 2005 Jan;95(1):255-60.

The origin, evolution and proposed stabilization of the terms 'genome size' and 'C-value' to describe nuclear DNA contents.

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Institute of Botany and Botanical Garden of the University of Vienna, Austria.



Perusing the literature on nuclear 'genome size' shows that the term is not stabilized, but applied with different meanings. It is used for the DNA content of the complete chromosome complement (with chromosome number n), for which others use 'C-value', but also for the DNA content of the monoploid chromosome set only (with chromosome number x). Reconsideration of the terminology is required.


Our purpose is to discuss the currently unstable usage of the terms 'genome size' and 'C-value', and to propose a new unified terminology which can describe nuclear DNA contents with ease and without ambiguity.


We argue that there is a need to maintain the term genome size in a broad sense as a covering term, because it is widely understood, short and phonetically pleasing. Proposals are made for a unified and consensual terminology. In this, 'genome size' should mean the DNA content based on chromosome number x and n, and should be used mainly in a general sense. The necessary distinction of the kinds of genome sizes is made by the adjectives 'monoploid' and the neology 'holoploid'. 'Holoploid genome size' is a shortcut for the DNA content of the whole chromosome complement characteristic for the individual (and by generalization for the population, species, etc.) irrespective of the degree of generative polyploidy, aneuploidies, etc. This term was lacking in the terminology and is for reasons of linguistic consistency indispensable. The abbreviated terms for monoploid and holoploid genome size are, respectively, Cx-value and C-value. Quantitative data on genome size should always indicate the C-level by a numerical prefix, such as 1C, 1Cx, 2C, etc. The proposed conventions cover general fundamental aspects relating to genome size in plants and animals, but do not treat in detail cytogenetic particularities (e.g. haploids, hybrids, etc.) which will need minor extensions of the present scheme in a future paper.

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