The nucleus of every human cell contains the full complement of the human genome, which consists of approximately 30,000 to 70,000 named and unnamed genes and many intergenic DNA sequences. The double-helical DNA molecule in a human cell, associated with special proteins, is highly compacted into 22 pairs of autosomal chromosomes and an additional pair of sex chromosomes. The entire cellular DNA consists of approximately 3 billion base pairs, of which only 1% is thought to encode a functional protein or a polypeptide. Genetic information is expressed and regulated through a complex system of DNA transcription, RNA processing, RNA translation, and posttranslational and cotranslational modification of proteins. Advances in molecular biology techniques have allowed accurate and rapid characterization of DNA sequences as well as identification and quantification of cellular RNA and protein. Global analytic methods and human genetic mapping are expected to accelerate the process of identification and localization of disease genes. In this second part of an educational series in medical genomics, selected principles and methods in molecular biology are recapped, with the intent to prepare the reader for forthcoming articles with a more direct focus on aspects of the subject matter.
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