In this topic students need to appreciate the concept of the genome as the complete set of genetic instructions in a cell and that this will therefore determine the full range of proteins that a cell is able to produce.

Sequencing projects have now read the genomes of organisms ranging from microbes to plants to humans. This allows the proteins that will be derived from the genetic code to be predicted. This has also led to the realisation that in more complex organisms there is non-coding DNA and also regulatory proteins. This further complicates the picture of what amino acid sequence and consequently what proteins are or are not produced by a particular cell.

Students need to understand that the genome is regulated by a number of factors. Cells are able to control their metabolic activities by regulating the transcription and translation activities of their genome. Although all cells within an organism carry the same genetic code, they translate only part of it. Both external and internal factors can control gene expression, with epigenetic regulation of transcription being increasingly recognised as an important factor.

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